THE STIGMA OF MISTAKES As humans, many times we overrate ourselves in terms of our true power, potential and abilities. Many times we are encouraged to focus mainly on what we have the ability to do and deemphasise the realities of our limitations, inhibitions and weaknesses. We are often encouraged to go for goals, achieve our dreams, our visions and make real our possibilities; hardly are we told how to make it within the constraints of our unique and peculiar weaknesses and limitations. We all have different limitations hence will require personalised support towards succeeding. I am a strong advocate of success in life, but I’m also a realist when it comes to individual and collective weaknesses; hence I will not tell you what you can do or what you’re capable of doing without teaching you the way to do it despite your personal constraints. It is not a balance approach to life when told your weaknesses don’t matter and it’s only your strengths that count. Many have been stopped by their weaknesses irrespective of their strengths. A balanced teaching I believe, should be on how you can still succeed in life despite your weaknesses. Your weaknesses are real and present, you cannot wish them away. We are all weak collectively and individually in various ways. No one can easily do or accomplish anything wished for or desired. We all struggle, work hard, try hard, pay prices and stretch ourselves most times to achieve many things in life. If all we want happens by just desiring and wishing, we would have no problems what so ever in life. Our lives as human beings is a combination of strengths and weaknesses, abilities and limitations, possibilities and inhibitions, positivity and negativities, good and bad; this reality we must face and accept. There are some home truths I’d like to share this morning about our nature and realities as humanity. First, we are not perfect. Humanity is not perfect, collectively and individually we are not perfect, we are by nature, designed to miss it every now and again, we are incapable of getting it right all the time. If by nature humanity in dealing is error free, we have become the almighty Himself. Human beings by nature are imperfect, imperfection is a part of our natural composition. Secondly, we do not know everything. Collectively and individually we do not know everything. There are so many things we still do not know and have no answers to and in fact there are still so many things we have wrong answers to. So many things in life today are still beyond our understanding and comprehension. We do not have answers to every question, there are even more things we can’t answer than the ones we can. It is also our configuration as mankind not to know everything. Hence trials and guesses, speculations and assumptions are part of our nature. We don’t know everything. Thirdly, we cannot correctly predict the future. No one knows what will happen before the end of today. We are restricted from having a peep into the future and knowing what would precisely happen tomorrow. As humanity, we do not have such powers or privilege hence, all we do is hope, wish and pray tomorrow turns out the way we expect and desire. As human beings, it is alien to our nature to precisely predict everything that will happen to everyone and the whole world in the future. Fourthly, we cannot control others. We do not have the power to make anyone do what we want. We can only try to influence, persuade, convince and sometimes coerce people to do what we want. Hence, the actions and decisions of people that could affect us positively or otherwise is beyond our control. We can’t control others. Lastly, we lack the ability and power as human beings to also control ourselves. We all lack self- control in different areas of our lives. What we want to do we do not do, that which we do not want to do is what we find ourselves doing. By nature, there is a never ending conflict between our spirits and our flesh. Many times we have to force our bodies to accept what our spirit wills. This internal conflict within us is a nature that really makes us human. We can’t even do what we really want to do, in many areas of our lives our flesh is more in control and stronger than our will. Because of all these realities, as human beings, we are bound to make mistakes and miss it every now and again. Based on the above stated factors, mistakes and errors are bound to occur in our lives. We are at best creatures who make mistakes by nature. Making mistakes is part of our natural dispositions it comes as natural as eating, drinking and sleeping. Mistakes and errors are parts of human nature. Unfortunately, mankind perhaps based on the negative consequence and cost of mistakes have stigmatised mistakes. When you make a mistake, the reaction of people to you and that error is punitive, castigatory and retaliatory. Mankind by nature have almost zero tolerance for mistakes and errors. We have put ourselves under pressure to always get things right, despite all the factors earlier stated that makes are absolutely inevitable. Not only are people hard on us when we miss it or commit errors, we are also sometimes hard on ourselves and we may not forgive ourselves for so long, for some people; for the rest of their lives. Mistakes are bound to occur in life. For many of us raised in the seventies and eighties, mistakes and errors were met with severe punishments and condemnation compared to now. Our parents and teachers had almost zero tolerance for mistakes. Mistakes made were naturally somebody’s fault. Someone must take the fall, in fact most mistakes were treated as though the act was deliberate, for every mistake with a dire consequence or reparation there must be commensurate punishment. This is not entirely bad as it is the best way to instil discipline and make people act in civilised and acceptable ways, the problem with mistakes is not the punishment as such; it is the stigma, the perception and the never ending reminder of that error that is really destructive. When a person does something wrong and it is clear it is not deliberate, such a person deserves pardon. If a person however does something wrong and it is clear the person ignored instructions, broke the law and deliberately committed the wrong, such a person should of course be punished but after the punishment, we should let the past remain in the past. Such a one should be free from continuous bashing, condemnation, judgments, suspicion and criticism. The real approach to encouraging the person to become better is to forget the past and treat such a one as though he or she never made that mistake. This will make the person in question gain confidence, accept pardon and then pursue what is right. The person would most likely not want to disappoint those who have again decided to forgive and forget and trust him or her once more. But if this person is consistently bashed, condemned and criticised on the account of a past error, this person most likely in rebellion and frustration will accept the label and continue in the unacceptable behaviour. The person may be unwilling to change; what would be the point? After all, he may begin to think, people already see me in a particular way and won’t change their minds whatever I do, even if I change, so why should I change hmmm. When we stigmatize mistakes and errors, it makes it difficult for people to try out new things and new ways of doing things as they would be afraid of the consequence of getting it wrong, hence they’ll rather stick with a working formula than improve any process. Even when they have superior ideas, they will seldom apply, too afraid of the stigma of mistakes. When we stigmatise mistakes, creativity is stifled, people become conservative and not daring. They will be scared of being wrong, they will hate to try new things or lead initiatives. Many can’t handle the trauma or shame of the stigma when they make mistakes. When members of your team are afraid to try new ways or use their initiates because of the fear of being wrong and the stigma that will subsequently follow, growth is hindered, improvement is hampered, easier ways are jettisoned and better results are truncated. Dear friend, I challenge you this morning to crush that inhibition; that fear of making mistakes. If you’re not daring, you can hardly make good progress or stand out. Risk takers are world takers, don’t be limited, or hindered by that fear of error. It’s okay to make good mistakes; not foolish ones, its natural, its normal, go ahead and do what you have to do, when you miss it, you try again because you’re now better experienced at it and the margin of error becomes lower. It is better to try and fail than to remain on the same spot that will eventually bring limitations, retrogression, irrelevance, poverty, discomfort and rejection. When you fail, learn then try again. Rise above the stigma of mistakes, be daring. Enjoy your day.