hu·man — adjective \ˈhyü-mən, ˈyü-\
: of, relating to, or affecting people
: typical of people
: having good or bad qualities that people usually have
“I’m sorry.” “Please accept my apologies.” “It was my fault.” “I am not sure how that happened.”
It’s been a week of mistakes.
Actually, it’s been a week of discovering old mistakes, the ones that are just now coming to light. The error I made writing the check to my credit card company. The typo I overlooked before hitting “submit” on a print order for work. The missed reports; the wrong data. The forms stapled instead of paperclipped.
With all of the apologies I’ve made this week, I feel like a politician caught with my hand in the till. Only, I really am sorry.
But maybe not for the reasons you’d think. When I make mistake after mistake, error after error, the thing I’m sorry most about is being human. Most of the time, I think I shouldn’t make mistakes.
“The only thing you’re mistaken about is that you made a mistake,” one coworker told me today, after I warned her that the information I provided might be wrong because, well, I’ve been making a lot of mistakes lately. “You don’t make mistakes,” she told me, sarcastically. As if to say, who doesn’t expect to make mistakes?
It’s not true that I think I’m perfect. I’ve made plenty of blunders in my day. But so many mistakes in such a short amount of time – it’s overwhelming. That’s why I told a few other coworkers today to let me know if I do something right.
“When you make a mistake, it always comes back to you. But when you do things right, you usually don’t hear about it,” I said. Not that anyone had given me a hard time about my mistakes. Nobody needed to. I was doing a fine job of beating myself up. “I just need a little encouragement that I can do something right, today,” I told them. And I was serious.
Sometimes, I wonder what the correct response is to mistakes. Are apologies reserved only for offenses that are intentional? Honestly, I didn’t mean to write that check incorrectly. Is “I’m sorry” appropriate when I really was trying my hardest? Like the reports I failed to create for a client. When I set up the process to provide the information they needed, I put a lot of thought into what I was doing. I concentrated, researched, and documented. I thought I had done it right. When someone calls and says, “this isn’t right,” is my only response an apology?
Or, the real question: are mistakes sin?
Over the weekend, I read a USA Today article about a medical breakthrough in creating stem cells without destroying embryos. Admittedly, my heart soared. Though I am not a current candidate for stem-cell therapy, I am aware enough to know that the future of medicine revolves around the promise of mapping our DNA and the ability to create healthy cells to replace damaged ones through stem cell research. If the new research turns out to be true, “that means for almost any person who has a medical problem, researchers could easily make stem cells from that person’s skin or blood, and those cells could be a really powerful therapy,” said biologist Paul Knoepfler, of the University California-Davis, who was quoted for the article.
But how can stem cells be created from normal, adult cells? According to the researchers from Harvard and Japan, the mature cells just need to be damaged with acid. In other words, damaged cells can create new life.
While I am not sure that all mistakes are sin, I do know that at the very least, mistakes are the result of Sin – or the result of being human. And being human these days – that is, in the days beyond Adam and Eve in the garden – means having a corrupted spirit and being born into a polluted gene pool. Things don’t always work. We hurt each other. Our bodies – all the way down to the cellular level – hurt themselves. And we need to be fixed.
Now, researchers are finally getting to the heart of the answer, the answer that has actually been built into our DNA since humans were first touched by sin and first needed to be fixed. The answer: there is no healing without brokenness.
Monday, as my mistakes were being revealed to me with alarming frequency, I found myself softened to a difficult client situation that normally just grates on me. I volunteered to help with another work project, even though I’m feeling a little overwhelmed. And when I realized that a mistake I had made should have been caught by someone else, I didn’t even blame them. Remarkably, my mistakes were softening me.
Whereas one mistake might have caused me to become defensive, the barrage of errors reminded me I was human, and so are my colleagues and clients and friends and family members. And as I accept this damaged mess that is me, I open myself up to the possibility of being fixed, to the hope of healing and restoration.
As I was leaving my friend’s office earlier today, she and another coworker clapped for me. I had turned in a receipt from a business purchase, and remarkably, I had done it exactly right. “You did it,” they said. “If you do nothing else right today, you’ll know that you did this one thing right.” I laughed. In fact, I clapped, too.
Because sometimes, one right thing reminds me that being human isn’t all bad.
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