“I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.” Philippians 3:12-14 (The Message)
I overheard our youngest the other day and it made me smile. Usually I feel like I spend the majority of my time instilling lessons or character traits without them taking effect. He and I’ve been working on a concept for a few weeks now and I think it’s finally starting to sink in. And that makes me happy.
I’ve talked in several of my previous blogs about the fact that I’m a recovering perfectionist, I wish I thought of mistakes as opportunities, and I wanted to teach my children to view their failures as ways to grow, not feel worse about themselves. Our youngest was in the habit of apologizing profusely every time he made a mistake. No matter how I responded, he ended up feeling badly, sometimes to the point of tears.
I decided the best way to teach him it truly was okay to make a mistake was to back up my words with action. Instead of overreacting and comforting him when he got it wrong, I started saying, “That’s your job – to make mistakes. That’s how we learn.” At first he looked at me with a question in his eyes like, “Really? I’m supposed to mess up?” And when I reinforced that belief every single time, he finally started to believe me.
So, this week, when I overheard him playing and say to himself, “I’m supposed to mess up – that’s how I learn,” I got really happy. Not only was his stress level lowering and he was then able to put his energy into figuring out how to fix the problem, but the belief system has been rubbing off on me. I find myself less stressed, less upset when things go wrong (or not the way I thought they would) and I realize there are very few things in life that are true emergencies.
So, not only does our littlest shed less tears out of frustration for doing things wrong, but our household is receiving an added bonus. The mother is finally learning, “It’s my job – to make mistakes. That’s how I learn,” and therefore, I shed less tears as well.
Unfortunately, it might take a while for my new belief system to catch on completely with our older kids. After all, they’ve had more time to live with the “old me” versus the “new improved me.” However, I have faith that if I consistently reinforce the truth, everyone in our home will benefit.
What about you? Have you already mastered the truth that mistakes help us to learn, grow, and reach our full potential? Or are you like me and it’s a concept that has taken a little longer to grab hold of your heart? Either way, it’s okay. “That’s our job – to make mistakes.” After all, “that’s how we learn.”
© Cheri Swalwell 2014