Sunday, June 20, 2010

Made a mistake? Own it

So, can you stand being told you did wrong? Or, do you wait for life to teach you lessons?

If you can divide people into categories based on behaviour, two types you may have come across are — those willing to admit mistakes, and those who refuse to acknowledge they went wrong.

The first will readily agree when you point out they erred and may even seek advice on making amends; or, at least be open to discussion. The second however will cut you out, change the topic or walk out on you. We have all come across people who have a pathological distaste to even mild criticism.

Here we are of course assuming a modicum of intelligence that allows you to analyse a situation dispassionately, a bit of sensitivity, a degree of objectivity and a whole load of courage!

If the one who resists correction is a relative or friend, you feel helpless and frustrated because as a bystander you may be acutely aware of where the problem lies. However, too much insistence may lead to a crack in the relationship. Under such circumstances, should you persist in continuing to point that finger or sheath it in the interest of harmony and let Destiny take its course?

Most would consider it prudent to take a backseat at this juncture, but would that be right? The more sincere amongst us would go on and on with our warnings, especially if the fallout is likely to be unpalatable. You wouldn't want your dear ones to suffer, even if due to their own fault! Others may consider it wiser to recognise the point beyond which no outsider can do anything, so strongly has a person's own will power, mind or Destiny taken over.

Of course, a lot depends on the manner in which you point out a mistake. Instead of an all-out aggressive attack, most people would be far more receptive to mild suggestions and advice.

Sooner or later, even though you may be reluctant to hear others point out your mistakes, the fallout of your actions will be the first and strongest indicator that perhaps there was something that you didn't do quite right. Unless you are a total slave to ego, such a situation leads to introspection, analysis and insights. That's how we grow as humans.

It requires courage to admit you were wrong and it's normally the weak amongst us who cannot bear the burden or guilt of blame. That is not to say that the person pointing the finger is always right, but courage lies in being able to discuss and analyse your methods and decisions even under the most trying circumstances, prepared to admit you could be wrong.

So can you stand being told you did wrong? Or, do you wait for life to teach you lessons? And once you do realise you may have gone wrong, do you have the guts to set right the mistake you made? What if you overcharged someone though they kept insisting you were doing so? What if you underpaid a poor man? Or, screamed at someone innocent? Would you be brave enough to make amends?

Now that requires a different sort of courage, to make amends once you admit you made a mistake. Most people would instinctively not want to be troubled by guilt pangs; so they bury the thought and refuse to meet their own eyes for a few days because eyes tell you the real state of your soul.

Many years ago, a friend on the verge of marriage told me how her fiancé made a tell-all pact with her. His candour and desire to be brutally honest delighted her. Smelling a rat, I warned her to be wary, saying if nothing else, go by your understanding of men in general, go by reams of literature on the subject, such as Thomas Hardy's Tess of D'Urbervilles and yes, also by the wisdom passed down by generations. Don't tell all, even though all in the case of a girl like her from a highly protected environment couldn't have been much! She never paid heed.

Unfortunately, her husband turned out to be exceedingly jealous and in later years, used her innocent confessions as excuses for his compulsive infidelity!

Agreed, an easy way to learn would be to blindly accept the wisdom of generations; to learn about life through others' experiences rather than making your own mistakes. If you start where another left off, you would have that much of a headway. But most of us grow up with the peer pressure of ignoring hand-me-down wisdom. Each generation wants to take their own decisions, make their own mistakes and learn from them. Our instinct is to question and revolt, and do quite the opposite if just to prove we are way ahead of time to our parents!

Well, certainly no harm in experimenting with life so long as you are prepared for the fallout. So long as the stakes aren't so high as to be destructive, one is well within one's rights to say, it's my life and I have the right to make my own mistakes and learn from them!

And truth be told, there is a certain charm in making your own bed and lying on it...

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