Alexander Pope once said, “To err is human, to forgive is divine.” Powerful words. Today I’m not here to talk about the second part of that statement as that’s a post in and of itself.
We all make mistakes. And I’ve certainly made my share.
Just 12 hours ago I was reminded of this when I took my family to Universal Studios for an afternoon of fun and laughter. We took the train all the way there and walked right up to the gate only to learn that our annual passes were not valid because of the start of the holiday season.
My son, who just turned 3 two months ago was excited but we decided that it wasn’t worth paying the extra $100 it would have been for us to go inside as it was close to his nap time and with the temperature a boiling 37 Celsius (98.6F) he would most likely not make it to the first ride what with the hour long wait for each ride.
It was a tough call, but my wife made the right one. We decided to head home and he fell asleep not 10 minutes later in my arms.
The point is that I didn’t check to see if we would have any problems getting into the park and with my son at such a young age, he just couldn’t understand why we didn’t go inside.
I had made yet another mistake. This time, the worst kind – I had let down my son.
He looks up to me, he knows I’m there for him and yet this time I failed him.
So I did the best thing I could. I decided to make it up to him.
I told my wife that we had to go to a toy store and have him pick out his two favorite train thingamajigs.
Why? Because he deserved better and he needed to know that when I let him down, that I must make it up to him.
That’s how I see it anyway.
And that’s how I believe we can avoid many of the problems we run into in life.
Mistakes are natural. We forget, we get busy, we get distracted, we get confused, we have 100 things going on at the same time so from time to time we err.
People get that. But here’s the important part – nobody wants to be the one to be let down. And I also believe that anyone sets out to disappoint their friends or loved ones.
So when we do the inevitable I believe we should do four simple things:
- Say sorry (how many of us forget that part?!)
- Show them you mean it (a critical piece)
- Make up for the mistake
- Try our best not do it again (show we learned our lesson)
And here’s what I’ve found to be true. We need to do something more than our error.
Let’s say I kept my friend waiting an hour for dinner. Now, I did call to let them know I’d be late but that only gives me an extra 30 minutes or so. An hour is more than late.
So, dinner’s on me. But what’s even more important is that next time we have dinner is that I show up on time or, even better, slightly early.
It shows I remembered what I did last time and I’m making an effort to show them how important they are to me.
Now, do most people do this? I’d have to say…no.
That’s why I suggest you do, especially to the people you really care about.
Because that will set you apart from others. You will be remembered as someone who doesn’t just make a mistake and says, “Sorry.” But that you go the extra mile.
What I’ve found is that people are willing to forgive us a few times, but that nearly everyone has their limits.
People often misunderstand that about me.
People say I’m nice, in fact, too nice. So I forgive people over and over and they start to think that I’ll always forgive them. And guess what, they keep disappointing me.
Last year I learned that lesson only too well…and I finally got it.
If I keep letting people do this to me, they will keep doing it.
So I made a choice.
I decided I was no longer willing to be treated that way. So I said goodbye to one friend.
A loss, but one that was needed for me.
But we don’t need to let things get that far. Instead, we should all learn how to ask people how they want to be treated and at the same time how we want to be treated.
With proper preparation we can avoid most of the letdowns in life, but from time to time even the best of us make mistakes.
And when you do, just make sure that you show those people you care about just how much you really do care.
If you don’t, don’t be surprised if one day you turn around and they’re not there anymore.