Man. Talk about a rough week. I think I needtwo hands to count the amount of times I screwed something up.
Whether it was a speaking gig that don’t go exactly right, a miscommunicated deadline, or something dumb I said on my blog — I’ve had my fair share of mistakes lately.
The hardest part isn’t letting down your friends or family (but that definitely sucks). The hardest part is the doubt. Wondering if you should just throw in the towel and give up.Know what I mean?
Where do you turn when you mess up BIG time?
If you’re like me, then maybe it’s a big tub of ice cream and some mindless entertainment, anything to numb your brain. To just forget.
But of course, you don’t forget. And tomorrow, you wake up with that sinking feeling that you’ve really screwed up.And you wonder if things will ever be the same.
Here’s the really awful, terrible, hard-to-swallow truth: they won’t be. You can never undo what you’ve done. And that, friends, is probably my least favorite lesson of adulthood.
My first epic failure (and how I almost didn’t own it)
My first experience with taking responsibility was when I worked at a summer camp in college.
I was in charge of a group off 11 year-olds, and an incident occurred when I should’ve be present in the cabin — and wasn’t.
As soon as I discovered what had happened, I went to my boss: a sweet, older lady named Marietta.When I shared with her my failure, I was hoping this kind soul would coddle me and tell me everything was going to be okay.
But that didn’t happen. Instead, she said,
“Jeff, this shouldn’t have happened. And it was your responsibility. You need to get on the phone and tell each parent how you let this happen. You need to ask their forgiveness.”
Crap. Really? Couldn’t she just do that for me? Was this GRACE?
Indeed, it was. Because grace never comes cheap; there is always a cost.And just because you’re forgiven doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences.Marietta taught me that.
So I got on my phone, swallowed my pride, and started dialing numbers.
The only thing you CAN do when you screw up
I don’t know where you are this week or what you’ve done that you regret. But if you’re human (or just plain foolish, as I often am), there’s something.Something you wish you could take back.
Maybe it’s something big, maybe something small. But it’s there, gnawing at you. And you really wish it didn’t happen.
Perhaps like me, you wish you could just crawl into a hole and forget the whole thing. But life doesn’t work like that, does it?Sooner or later, you have to face the music.
What do you do in these situations? The only thing you can do: accept responsibility and try to make it right.In this case of the above example, here’s what I did:
Explain what happened. Sometimes, people don’t know you’ve let them down. But it’s still your responsibility to tell them. Anything else is lying.
Take responsibility. Nothing is worse than hearing someone at fault make excuses.
Ask forgiveness. This is a lot more humbling and can soften a hard heart more than a mere apology.
Listen to the other side. Letting people tell you how you’ve hurt them is part of the healing process for them — and you. Don’t argue or interrupt; just make them feel heard.
Does this make it all better? No, of course not. But it’s all we have. And as humans, these moments of failure make us sensitive to our need for forgiveness and allow us to give more grace to those who will one day fail us.
It’s one thing to fail. To swing for the seats and miss. It’s another to let down a dear friend or say something cruel to your spouse.Because you can always get up and try harder tomorrow. But what about that person you wronged or cheated, even unintentionally? How do you make thatright?
I don’t know, but you’ve got to try.
Where this leaves us…
You can’t let your screw-ups keep you from moving forward.Of course, you don’t want to do what crooks politicians do and just ignore the criticism and scandals or simply disregard them. You need to own your stuff.
But you also need to keep moving, to not give up.
We all have an enemy who stands in opposition to us becoming our best selves. And this enemy wants you to stop, to slow down. To feel so defeated you won’t get up and start again tomorrow.
And that’s exactly what you must do. It’s what I’m trying in my own broken way to do today by sending you this newsletter.Even though I don’t feel qualified. Even though at times, I’ve let you down. Not because I’m unaware of my shortcomings — quite the opposite.
Because I can’t not do this.
As broken and disheveled as I am, I must write. I must connect words with people. Even when I don’t feel like it. Even when I’d rather crawl in a hole and stay there.Even when I fail.
Can you relate?
Maybe you’ve been here before. Maybe you’re here right now. Maybe you feel alone.Look. It’d be disingenuous for me to tell you what to do. To share a bunch of advice as if I don’t think about quitting every time I mess up. I don’t want to do that.
All I’m really trying to say is this: I’m here with you. Right in the midst of failure and often feeling like I’m not enough. So if you need someone to vent to or share your insecurities with, someone just to listen, feel free to shoot me a reply.
Oh, and by the way, I’m grateful that you’re that person for me. Thanks for listening. It means more than you know. If you don’t have anyone to encourage you to own your mistakes and at the same time not give up, let me be that person. It’s the least I can do.
In fact, let’s make a pledge to each other right now. To not let the other person give up without a fight. Deal?