Monday, September 12, 2011
Wisdom is not the inability to make mistakes, it’s the ability to learn from them. I make stupid mistakes every day of my life. Sometimes they cost me money, sometimes they cost me time and sometimes they cost me dignity. I am actually proud and willing to tell you how dumb I can be. I recently had to tell my oldest daughter just how good her mother was at making mistakes. She was having a bad day and had gotten into trouble for hurting her little brother. In the course of her discipline she told me that she felt like she was always making mistakes and couldn’t do anything right. At that point, I had to spill the beans about my own inadequacy.
I am not sure if telling her about of all my bad choices made her feel any better, but I wanted her to understand that no one is going to make all the right decisions. Sometimes, because our heart leads us astray or because we have false information or because we have not weighed all the evidence or because emotions get the best of us, we do really dumb things. And unfortunately, we may have to live with the consequences for years to come. If we are not making mistakes, we are not growing, we are not learning, we are not gaining wisdom.
If I gave you a choice of being slapped in the face or living with a lifelong chronic condition, which one would you choose? The slap in the face is painful and embarrassing, but the pain will quickly fade. It’s the same when we make a blunder. No one wants to be told they have done something wrong or wasted time, money or energy. It hurts! It’s embarrassing! But if you feel the pain, if you let it sting and accept the fact that you are NOT perfect, you can learn from it, and the pain will quickly fade. The other choice is to ignore the mistake, pretend it wasn’t your fault and repeat it again in the future. This will provide you with a lifelong condition of chronic suffering.
When you own up to your bad choices or errors in judgment, you are on the road to becoming truly wise. There will be no need to repeat the mistake over and over. Instead, you learn from it: “Wow, that was stupid, but I’m sure glad I got it out of my system. Don’t need to do that ever again.” Choosing to own up is a road less traveled, but one that is much more enjoyable. There is a fine line between wisdom and stupidity, and there is actually only one key difference: a truly wise person will learn from their mistakes; a stupid person will repeat theirs.