Your Mistakes Don’t Define You, They Teach You

Sometimes, I even amaze myself at how many things I can screw up in a short amount of time.

Plane crash
Photo Credit: waynerd via Compfight cc

Just the other day, a friend pointed out I had inadvertently plagiarized his work on my blog. He was beyond gracious about it, but I was mortified.

Less than a week before that infraction, I realized I had, once again unintentionally, blown off someone I respected through an email mishap that made me look like a royal jerk.

And not quite a month ago, I miscommunicated with another friend, inviting him to come speak at an event I was hosting, only to realize he came a week early due to an unclear text message.

Now, you might see these as completely understandable misunderstandings and oversights. And you would be right. But one after another makes me want to throw in the towel. Little mistakes like these add up, running into each other like dominos, making me feel like a total amateur.

Am I the only one who experiences this?

You have a good week and before you can get a big head about yourself, something goes terrible wrong and reminds you of how perfectly imperfect you are? I think these times, as difficult as they can be, are essential to our growth.

No stranger to stupid

I am no stranger to stupid mistakes. I wrote the book on messing things up, royally (okay, not really, but that book would sell like crazy).

If you were somehow misled by the veneer of a well-designed website, let me set the record straight for you: I don’t have my stuff figured out.

I am often late to meetings, disappointing the ones I love, and regretting dumb things I say. I wish it weren’t this way, but no matter how hard I try, I sometimes just can’t get it right. As my sister likes to say, “Sometimes, I suck at life.”

Don’t get me wrong, though. This isn’t a pity party. I am not resigned to my mistakes; I believe I can grow. This is just me being real and an invitation into the truth.

Because, I think, sometimes we all suck at life.

We all fall short, we all betray our consciences and let down those who matter most to us. And these things are not okay. But they are also not the end of the story.

Our struggles don’t define us. But they can help us grow.

The lessons of failure

When I have a week or even a month like the one I had lately, I’m reminded of a few things:

  • Failure means I’m still alive. When I die and go to heaven, things will be perfect. Until then, I will be surrounded by imperfect, especially my own. The good news in this is that it means I’m not dead.
  • Failure means there’s room to grow. I don’t know about you, but I hate the feeling like I’ve stagnated or plateaued. And I love the exhilaration of learning a new skill or growing at something.
  • Failure means I’m human. We don’t like talking about our failures very much, but I believe it’s the one thing we have in common with everyone. Remembering this, even sharing my struggles, is a great way to connect with my humanity (and with others who can relate).

I think we sometimes misunderstand failure. We think our mistakes either don’t matter or we believe that they define us. Neither of these is true.

The truth is with every shortcoming, we can learn something. We can grow. We can become more of the people we were born to be, instead of merely the shadow of a true self. And along the way, may we encounter the grace that keeps us going.

So that’s where I’ll leave this. Sometimes, I suck at life. I screw up relationships and miss deadlines and fail to keep it together. If you resonate with this, if you want to join this chorus of imperfection, I invite you to do so below in the comments.

Who knows? Maybe in sharing your struggle, you’ll give someone else permission to do the same.

How have you recently fallen short lately? Share in the comments.