Mistakes

 

It’s Narcissist Friday!     

 

I hate mistakes. I hate making mistakes. I can spot a misspelling on a sign or a grammatical error in a document in seconds, unless I wrote it. For several years I read long theological documents able to catch minute doctrinal errors, but sometimes the things that come out of my own mouth are just dumb. I would never consider myself a perfectionist because there is nothing about me that is perfect.

Sound familiar? Most of us have been carefully trained to focus on our mistakes. Remember school? You handed in a paper with your most careful work. You received the same paper back covered with notations about your mistakes. Red circles, black check marks, harsh comments. Out of 100 points, you got 92. And, instead of noticing the A-level work, you wondered what you did wrong. Everything was focused on what you did wrong.

Many years ago, I worked for a man who seemed to take delight in pointing out my mistakes. He actually used the word “failed.” I failed this way and that way. I sat with him through my final assessment for three or four hours while he told me how I had failed. It took me a long time to get over that.

We learned to judge others and ourselves by our mistakes. The media loves to point out the mistakes of politicians they disagree with. The fans talk about the mistakes of the players and the referees. The error at the store is much more memorable than the many times we have had good service.

Teaching students without focusing on mistakes is a very delicate and difficult job. It takes more time and caring. Instead, teachers usually just hand the criticisms and judgments back and tell them to do better. And the students learn to hate their mistakes. Mistakes bring pain. Mistakes bring shame. Mistakes mean failure.

But we all know in our hearts that mistakes are basic to human life. Not one of us goes through life without making mistakes. It isn’t possible! Let me emphasize that: IT ISN’T POSSIBLE! And not only do we all make mistakes, we all make roughly the same number of mistakes.

The conventional wisdom is that the only way to avoid making mistakes is to do nothing. In other words, the people who are doing something are making mistakes. That means that the people who are doing more are making more mistakes. The most successful people are those who are making the most mistakes. For many years Babe Ruth was known as the “Sultan of Swat” for making so many home runs and the “King of Strikeouts” for missing so many balls. Making mistakes is part of living.

So what’s the difference between those of us who focus on our mistakes and live in fear and shame and those who seem to be able to move past their mistakes? If we all make mistakes, why does it seem like there are people who make none? And why does it seem like I make so many more than others?

The answer is: MAGIC!

What? You don’t believe me? Well, it’s true. How does the magician do his or her wonders? Is it because of mystical powers? Of course not. The key word to understanding magic is “misdirection.” And that explains how people seem to go through life without making mistakes.

Think about this: If others make mistakes just like you and I do, why don’t we see them? Probably because we are too busy looking at something else. The magician tells you where to look mostly by looking there himself. While his hands are doing the trick, his eyes are focused on the place he wants you to look. You look at his right hand, for example, while his left hand is doing the trick. You look at his assistant, just like he does, while he works his “magic.”

The successful person has his or her eyes on the next success. You don’t see their mistakes because they aren’t focused on them. I learned this early and have taught it to my family: if you don’t focus on your mistakes, the majority of people around you will not even know they happened. We have all listened to a singer or musician who stopped to correct a mistake we didn’t notice. If the singer had not called attention to the misspoken lyrics or error in music movement, most of the audience would have either missed or ignored the mistake. The successful performer keeps moving forward drawing the audience along.

The narcissist, on the other hand, gets you to miss his mistakes by causing you to focus on your own. He watches you and collects your errors to use as distractions when he makes his own mistake. By presenting you with your error, which you are ready to accept and consider, you don’t have a chance to see his. And, even if you did see his mistake, you can’t focus on it because you have to defend yourself against your own.

But suppose you have already moved past your mistake. Suppose you have learned whatever you needed to learn and left the fact of your error behind. Then, when the narcissist tries to distract you, you would see his attempt at distraction. You would not have to defend yourself, and you could keep your focus on his error.

Now, I am not suggesting that you focus on the mistakes of others, even of narcissists. What I am suggesting is that you learn to lose sight of your own. The fact that you make mistakes will never go away. You should accept that as the simple truth of an active life. But your mistakes have no purpose in your life other than to help you learn as you move forward. And like good housekeeping, when something has served its purpose, get rid of it. If someone else digs around in your trash and finds something you threw away, don’t take it back.

Here’s an interesting tidbit: In Texas, the things you have put out in the trash no longer belong to you. The courts have ruled that you have transferred ownership of those items to the waste-hauling company, the people with the job of getting it away from you.

So here’s what I would suggest. When you make a mistake, acknowledge it and learn from it. Then get rid of it. Give it to the Lord, and thank Him for His love and acceptance. Then it belongs to Him. He will remove it from you, and you will not be identified by your mistake. Tell anyone who tries to bring it back to you that it belongs to God now. They have no right to it.

Stop focusing on your mistakes. They are normal. Everybody makes them. Move forward with your life.

10 Comments

Filed under Narcissism

10 responses to “Mistakes

  1. Karen

    Love this!! Thankyou so much! You are a very wise man and I look forward to your bits of wisdom every Friday. They have helped me thru some pretty rough times.

  2. Becoming a Better Me!

    Beautiful Pastor Dave, just BEAUTIFUL!

  3. deborah lawson

    Thank you so much! I needed to hear this. My ex narc husband always blamed me for everything and always pointed out my mistakes. He never was accountable for his. Through the grace of God, I have overcome most of the hurtful statements he made.

  4. UnForsaken

    Yes!

    If I focused on my mistakes I’d never write anything. As a child I was supposed to keep a journal for a school project. I couldn’t think what to write after having what I’d done picked apart. But you don’t feel-out how to write without doing it! Eventually I was able to write my own private journal, not worry about grammar and such, and get better at doing it. Unless I wanted to ask specifically, I had to stop “sharing” my attempts to get anywhere. My writing is far from perfect, but now I just try not to think about it. The message is what matters.

    As believers, our whole beings belong to God. Ns make us look like one big mistake totally possessed by them, but God loves, accepts, and enables us. We can miss the joy of being forgiven and loved by buying the Ns guilting. The N may be actually jealous, but the sad truth is they could be accepted too.

    They try to force us to accept/normalize their imperfection by focusing on ours. I think we should not give them the pleasure of playing God….an unforgiving god, unlike ours. They want acceptance on their own terms, just like Cain. To let go of a Ns perspective is freeing! We don’t need their insisted labels of us to acknowledge imperfection. We can let go of these judgements and embrace a new identity made possible by Christ. We can be free to function in our True Salvation!

  5. Redgum

    that’s really good. Thanks. And, ties in beautifully with something else i was reading and studying yesterday but totally not related. God must chuckle sometimes 😁.

  6. The Narcissist is busy pointing out your mistakes because it makes him feel better about himself. How sad that he must put others down in order to feel elevated himself. He falsely accuses you of something he is most guilty of himself – because by accusing you, it covers up his mistakes or intentional wrongdoing, as the case may be. This is called projection. When your N starts accusing you, it gives you a good idea of what he has been up to himself. For example, if he accuses you of hiding marital money, it is likely he is hiding money. If he accuses you of lying, it is likely that he is lying. (Correction – if his lips are moving, he’s lying.) If he accuses you of forgetting things, it’s to cover up the times that he forgets things.

  7. Thanks. I needed that today. Back about 25 years ago, I was a training manager. We had a guest lecturer, teaching lecturing. He wanted me to critique all of the students as they presented topics, but I had to think of four good things to say for every area that needed correction. This was mind-blowingly hard, but it taught me to consider the other person in a different view. Whenever I get upset with others, I think back on that class. It is still hard. It is so easy to see the mistakes of others and miss your own simple typo.

  8. Hisdaughter

    Sometimes people make up mistakes and things you’ve done to keep you off balance so they will not have to take responsibility for their own actions or to make you think you’re the problem when they are the problem. Be aware of this! We make enough mistakes we need to move on from and can move on from. We don’t need people making things up as well.

  9. Great article, I keep Grace for my Heart open in one of my tabs to remember to read it and always learn from it. Greetings from Johannesburg.

  10. mistakes make us wiser and are an inevitable reality and form part of being successful we learn and move forward

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