We are mistake-makers. It is part of being human. Every day, more accurately, every hour, we err. Whether in areas of judgment, precision, or skill…individuals forget to read an entire report, they overlook a deadline, or rush to the next task without first checking their calendar. In short, we are error-ridden folk. This we have in common.
The difference lies in how we handle our mistakes and how we respond to the transgressions of others. Do we write people off, cut them from our life (personally and professionally)? Or in the midst of the heat, do we look for some way to salvage the situation and thereby offer a lifeline to the offender?
As people prone to creating tangled webs of problems (intentionally or not) we have a decision to make. On this barely subconscious level, each person decides whether to offer someone the benefit of the doubt or not. In short mental steps of succession, we’ve already judged and juried another’s transgression or we’ve offered forgiveness.
Depending upon the person who’s harmed us (or our project, objective, feelings or ego), we decide. How we determine to lend some measure of compassion or grace is generally a multifactor proposition. Did we enjoy a good breakfast? Have that second cup of coffee? Was the ride to work uneventful? Did our inbox contain the messages we anticipated? Or none of the above?
Seems petty, doesn’t it? Too often we further compound one mistake by meting out added layers of punishment simply to make a point. People generally feel bad enough after making a problematic issue larger. On a practical scope, dredging up an individual’s shortcomings does nothing to solve the problem. It’s just that it comes so “naturally” to be critical of another’s failings and we’re so good at blaming.
Instead of believing the worst about another person (doesn’t matter much what they did or didn’t do), try extending the benefit of doubt. See how that person responds. Extend trust, both in terms of being able to right the wrong…and by expecting better results for the future. Watch what happens.
Individuals who are aware of their shortcomings are already feeling defensive, on the edge, and ready to do battle…in their minds, it’s “me against the world.” So, a strong offensive stance is required here…offer pardon, grace, and some gesture of confidence in their ability to do better.
The final word on trust…none of us “deserves” it, but there’s no one who doesn’t cherish it and then attempt to live up to another’s higher expectations. It’s a win-win situation for communities, for businesses, and for families.
Michele Howe is a reviewer for Publishers Weekly, FaithfulReader.com, Retailers + Resources, Foreword Magazine, TeenReads.com, KidReads.com, among many others national and international publications. She has published over 3000 reviews/articles and has been featured on numerous radio shows across the country speaking on topics such as parenting and a diverse range of women's health issues. Her work has been published in MORE, FIRST for Women, Good Housekeeping, Christianity Today, Discipleship Journal, Midwest Living, Parentlife, Fullfill, Christian Single, Single Parent Family, Focus on the Family, PRISM, and Connections. She also does manuscript reviewing for several publishing houses including New Growth Press.
Michele is the author of twenty books for women. Her first book, "Going It Alone: Meeting the Challenges of Being a Single Mom" (Hendrickson Publishers), provided hope and practical helps for single moms new to parenting solo. She has also authored "Pilgrim Prayers for Single Mothers" (Pilgrim Press) and a third book of helps for single mothers titled, "Successful Single Moms" (Pilgrim Press.) In addition to these resources for single mothers, Michele wrote four separate titles combining real life stories with inspirational prayer retreats. These titles published by (Jossey-Bass) include: "Prayers for Homeschooling Moms," "Prayers to Nourish a Woman's Heart," "Prayers of Comfort and Strength" and "Prayers for New and Expecting Moms."
Her more recent books include a follow-up resource to "Going It Alone" titled, "Still Going It Alone: Mothering with Faith and Finesse Once the Children Have Grown" (Hendrickson Publishers) and "Burdens Do a Body Good: Meeting Life's Challenges with Strength and Soul" co-authored with orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Christopher A. Foetisch (Hendrickson Publishers).
One Size Fits All: Making Meaningful Choices, Stepping Into a Meaningful Life was released in early 2013 by Lighthouse of the Carolinas. Burden Lifters: Every Woman's Every Day Resource Kit for a Healthy, Happy Life was released by Bondfire Books in late 2013 and ACTA Publications released, "Faith, Friends, and Other Floatation Devices" which is a compilation of stories, quotes, and practical lifestyle recommendations for "staying afloat" during life's toughest times. Her newest book, Empty Nest, What's Next? Parenting Adult Children Without Losing Your Mind was published fall of 2015. In the fall of 2016, "Caring for Aging Parents: Lessons in Love, Loss, and Letting Go" was released by Hendrickson Publishers. Summer of 2017, her sequel to Empty Nest, What's Next? was published, Preparing, Adjusting, and Loving the Empty Nest. In 2018, There's a Reason They Call It Grandparenting and Navigating the Friendship Maze were released. In September 2018, Living Bravely: 52 Week Super Incredible Faith Devotional will also be published.
Read more of Michele's work at michelehowe.wordpress.com and contact Michele at: [email protected].
This Post Has 5 Comments
Thanks Michelle. This grace-filled post made me immediately have a change of heart about an issue. It made me realize once again how often our perspective plays a role…highlighted recently so brilliantly with the whole “what color is this dress?” conundrum.
I’m with you, Lyn! Our perspective is everything (from our perspective!!!). 🙂 I’ve always appreciated that age old saying about walking in someone else’s shoes…it does change how we react (and act). Thanks for your thoughts.
Found this message just after a misunderstanding with my granddaughter. Thank you for lighting a new pathway for me
Forgiveness sets us free! And then restoration can begin.
Michele, I very much enjoyed your well-written, balanced article. I think all of us struggle with trying to maintain an offensive stance, when faced with someone on the defensive. As you rightly say, it is often a question of how we initially approach the situation. You mention in your penultimate paragraph “… some gesture of confidence in their ability to do better.” I think I understand offering ‘pardon’ and ‘grace’ but can you give me some help with example(s) of the ‘gesture of confidence’, so that I can try and put this into practice too? Thank you so much.