I made a mistake this week that has stayed with me, but not for the reason you may think.
I was singing with a quartet at a public venue. One of the songs we do is an a capella rendition of Oh Come Emmanuel which is quite beautiful and haunting. In the middle I have a couple of solo soprano notes, the last of which is the note everyone else keys off of for the next part of the tune. I sang that second note wrong. In the split second (which was to me an eternity of self-flagellation) my three colleagues took a beat and then recovered as only seasoned veterans are able. Very few in the audience realized what had happened. I felt like crying – first for missing a note I had never missed before, and second for the complete grace that was shown me by my friends. When our set was done I apologized to them and each was completely kind and forgiving. Yes, I had made a mistake. And we recovered together. That did two things for me. One, it made me want to keep singing with them. If they had degraded me, I would have had a hard time continuing with the group. Two, when I started to keep hold of the humiliation I felt, I had to ask myself, “What would I say to someone else who made a mistake?” I would also be kind and forgiving and encouraging – so I had to do that for myself. Since I was already thinking of the application for this in pursuing my life’s purpose, a Sunday morning sermon on Making Mistakes made my ears perk up. The pastor used a variation on a certain phrase several times – about how when you create an atmosphere that fears making mistakes, you kill creativity and risk taking. I recalled several times when I was on the job and made mistakes that were somewhat more serious than a missed musical note and impacted more than just a few people.
The times I was berated and the mistake was held over my head, I was terrified to try again. When the mistake was acknowledged, discussed, and released, I would willingly try again, and sometimes even come up with a better way to approach it. To me there is an emphasis in my musical experience, the sermon, and my work experience. That emphasis is on relationship. When those in a relationship have a culture of forgiveness and acceptance and camaraderie, the mistake – even though it may be great – becomes easier to overcome and creates a connection, a bond if you will, as you work together to overcome it and prevent it from happening again. And when you live and work in that kind of environment, it will rub off in how you treat yourself when you make a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes – so expect them along the way as you pursue your purpose. But do something for me: If someone else makes one, be kind and gracious and intentional in helping the person recover. Change the atmosphere for someone. When you do make one, ask yourself, “How would I respond to someone else who did this?” Be kind and gracious and intentional in helping yourself recover. Change the atmosphere you have created for yourself.
“Don’t be afraid to take God-led risks, eliminating regrets. There is enough life in you to do all you desire… everything is gain, including the hard times.” (Jevon Bolden)