SBC Life Articles

To Err is Human

We all make mistakes. That's why there are erasers on pencils, reverse gears in cars, delete keys on computers, U-turns on our roads, and summer school options in our schools.

One of my favorite presidents was Gerald Ford. One reason I liked him was because he was a lousy golfer. There was always a clip on the news of people being hit by his golf ball. He was so bad at golf, when he hit a shot, they yelled, "eight," instead of "fore." His mistakes weren't restricted to the golf course, however. One day he arrived at Orly airport in France in front of 800 elite French troops in their uniforms and the entire diplomatic corp with the President of France, Pompidou. Ford stepped out of the plane, waved to the crowd, and tumbled down the stairs. A tissue is offered and declined and the story continues. He got up, laughed, brushed off his clothes, strolled forward with a big smile, and firmly took the arm of the man standing next to Pompidou, who was the Spanish ambassador. He walked off with him down the red carpet leaving Pompidou staring after him in amazement. We all make mistakes, even presidents.

The more new things you try, the more likely you're going to make mistakes – like a person learning to drive. One father says every time his son drives the car it is like starting a new paragraph – he always indents.

Then, of course, there are the people who love to point out our mistakes. A businesswoman stopped at a coffee shop and ordered a cup of coffee. The waitress grudgingly delivered it and asked, "Anything else?" "Yes," said the business woman, "I'd like some sugar, cream, a spoon, a napkin, and a saucer for the cup." "Well, aren't you the demanding one," the waitress said. "Look at it from my point of view," she said. "You served a cup of coffee and made five mistakes."

We overlook mistakes when it is to our advantage. I heard about a guy who was overpaid at work by a huge sum of money but he didn't say anything. A couple of weeks later, he was underpaid. He went in and said, "Look, I was underpaid this week." They said, "Yes, but last week we overpaid you and you didn't say anything." He said, "Well, I figure everybody's entitled to one mistake. Since you make two, I thought I ought to bring it up to you."

Then there are the stupid mistakes, like the man who was arrested in Wichita, Kan., for trying to pass counterfeit money at an airport hotel. The counterfeit loot was two $16 bills. And there are the mistakes that hurt, like the terrorist who didn't pay enough postage on a letter bomb. It came back with "return to sender" stamped on it. Forgetting it was a bomb, he opened it and was blown to bits.

Yes, your mistakes can hurt and other people's mistakes can also hurt you. A pair of Michigan robbers entered a record shop nervously waving revolvers. The first one shouted, "Nobody move!" When his partner moved, the startled bandit shot him.

The first thing to do after making a mistake is to admit it. As a female shopper exited a convenience store, a man grabbed her purse and ran. The clerk called 911 immediately, and the woman was able to give them a detailed description of the snatcher. Within minutes, the police had apprehended the snatcher. They put him in the car and drove back to the store. The thief was then taken out of the car and told to stand there for a positive ID. To which he replied, "Yes, Officer, that's her. That's the lady I stole the purse from."

It is important to make a positive ID but it is more important to not repeat mistakes. Don't be like the guy who went to the doctor with two burned ears. The doctor asked what happened, and the man explained, "I was ironing my shirt and the phone rang and I picked up the iron instead of the phone." "That's awful!" said the doctor sympathetically, "But what happened to your other ear?" He replied, "He called back."

We can learn from our mistakes but we can also profit from our mistakes. One famed ventriloquist would have died in obscurity had he not exercised flexibility in his youth. This young boy was very interested in photography. He carefully saved his money to buy a photography book from a mail-order catalog. The publisher mistakenly sent a book on ventriloquism instead. The boy had no idea what the book was about and was saddened that he had not received his long-awaited book on photography. He didn't know he could return the book and thought he was stuck with the "wrong" book. But he then opened the strange book and began to read about a subject of which he had never heard. His interest grew and he soon learned to masterfully throw his voice. He eventually got a dummy, named it Charlie McCarthy, and Edgar Bergen was on his way to international fame. Needless to say, his daughter, Candice Bergen, has enjoyed the fame of that name as well. And it all started with a mistake.

I would be mistaken if I didn't point out that mistakes can become masterpieces. A tourist in the Orient noticed an unusual training session and stopped to observe. A master weaver was working on a large piece of tapestry and behind him were ten apprentice weavers in a semicircle, working on their own similar projects. As the master wove a pattern, the apprentices very carefully followed him, endeavoring to duplicate the same pattern. When one made a mistake, the master weaver came over to the apprentice and studied the marred pattern closely. The tourist then noticed that the master weaver returned to weave an entirely different pattern, using the apprentice's mistake, and turning the mistake into a masterpiece.

So as you go through a life of mistakes, don't suffer from mistaken identity. Identify those mistakes you don't want to repeat, those you can learn from, and those that, with some help from the Master, could be the peace your life's puzzle needed.

    About the Author

  • Charles Lowery