Recently I had spent several days working on a project which caused me lots of stress. Later, because of a mistake made by my co-worker the days I spent were determined not to be necessary. My colleague could have easily covered the mistake up and could have gotten by with not acknowledging the mistake. It would have been very possible to for me to never know that my work was made unnecessary. However, instead he acknowledged the mistake, owned the unfortunate outcomes, and made an apology.
My initial reaction was frustration and disappointment but I very quickly moved to forgiveness and thankfulness. We know that when relationships are healthy, we see mistakes as simply mistakes. This leads to our ability to not feel targeted or used but rather understand that mistakes simply happen. When working relationships are healthy it is much easier to forgive. When relationships are healthy and mistakes occur, relationships can actually grow and become stronger.
There is a wonderful story or Ralph Waldo Emerson responding to a letter his daughter had written him while attending school away from home. In the letter, she indicated that she was concerned about a past mistake that continued to haunt her. Emerson wrote the following to his daughter:
“Finish every day and be done with it. You have down what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; but get rid of them and forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day, and you should never encumber its potentialities and invitations with the dread of the past. You should not waste a moment of today on the rottenness of yesterday”
When we have a trusting relationship, we can be like Emmerson and encourage the people in our lives to not worry about the mistakes of the past so we can work on all that today has to offer. Our relationships do not improve when we dwell on failures of the past. Our relationships improve when we acknowledge our mistakes, forgive one another, strive to not make the same mistake over again and focus on what we can do and learn together today. Sometimes a mistake in a trusting relationship can turn into something very useful…like the inspiration for you next blog!
Tim Geels – Senior Vice President of Corporate Instruction & Implementation