I heard that in this African tribe, when someone does something wrong, the tribe brings the wrong-doer into the center of a circle, where the villagers surround him or her. Then for two days, everyone in the village talks about all the good that individual has done in his or her life. The tribe believes that every individual is inherently good, and if someone has made a poor choice, it’s a cry for help. The villagers take it on as their responsibility to help the person remember their inherent goodness.
Just imagine if we treated everyone who made a mistake in this way …
Just imagine if you were treated this way when you made mistakes …
And sometimes the external world, particularly in the West with our adolescent attitude toward all things “wrong,” can’t do that. Instead we posture and pose and pontificate and point fingers loudly. The political process, anyone? [Sigh.]
But that’s not the real reason I chose to write about this.
The real reason is that even if the outer world isn’t behaving like the enlightened African tribe of the description above, any one of us can do for ourselves what that tribe does for one another.
Here’s the very simple, effective process:
First, admit your mistake to yourself. No matter how badly you feel about it. No matter how the people treated you. No matter what actually happened. Where you were wrong, admit it. At least to yourself. Why? Because there’s power in knowing where you are.
Second, forgive yourself. I know, easier said than done. This is where the telling-yourself-all-the-good-you’ve-done comes in. Choose things that remind you of the difference you’ve made for those people, in that place, recently and long ago. Make a list of “proofs.”
Third, scan your body. What I mean is pay attention to her or him. (No, your body isn’t an it!) Where have you stored the pain/hurt/anger/sorrow? Easing your psyche will help in easing your body but bodies change more slowly than minds and hearts. Solution: move, with intention. Go whomp the bed or hit the squash court for the express intention of shifting the upset in your body.
Fourth, find a powerful place to stand within yourself. Pick an aspect of your best self and decide to put that part of you facing forward for a while. You’ll be tender around your mistake, and others will treat you strangely for a while. Don’t worry about it. Self-soothe. Remind yourself of your inner tribe that is helping remember your inherent goodness.
Fifth, figure out whether there are apologies to make or feelings to soothe, and as soon as you can do them kindly, do so.
Sixth, move on. Put it behind you.
Beloved, we all make mistakes. All. We misspeak or we don’t think or we’re in a hurry or we’re having a bad week or whatever. Mistakes happen.
This isn’t the proper etymology of the word but I often think of my mistakes as “miss taking” something. Taking something that isn’t mine or isn’t ready or isn’t appropriate, or even taking something the wrong way or amiss. Play around with that for a while. I think you’ll find it applies to your latest mistake.
Oh, yeah, remember this. We ALL make mistakes. ALL. Without exception. Mistakes indeed happen. Most of them are harmless, or minorly consequential. Others are not. No matter. Our humanity means that we’re still learning, and that means we’ll make mistakes.
I’d been putting off writing this post till now, and had no idea why I was in resistance. When I opened the file to begin to write, I laughed out loud. What happened to me last week with a client of mine? I made a mistake. Actually, two. Not intentional. Not mean. Not even with serious repercussions. The client overreacted like I’d sold the launch codes to the Kremlin.
I called on my tribe to help me process the event. It took several conversations, two consultations, five phone calls with friends, and a chat with a wicked good healer to get me empowered within myself again.
As they say, no mistakes.