Have you ever really screwed something up? Forgot your line on stage in the middle of the show? Put your foot in your mouth? Call your friend’s new girlfriend by the ex-girlfriend’s name? I do this kind of thing all the time. I don’t know how it happens or why it happens. I’m not an idiot. I am fairly tactful in social situations, I am even good at remembering details like names and occupations of people I have just met… and yet I make an ass of myself all the time by the things I say or do.I’m not exaggerating, I am fairly notorious for this amongst my friends.
For example, I was talking with my boss recently about the Myers-Briggs test we took at our team building office meeting. He tested as a “P” for perception and I tested as a “J” for judgment and we discussed with sarcasm the positive and negative qualities of the other based on these letters. Then my boss says, “Actually, when I think about the “P” of my personality, I don’t know why I am an office manager.”
I knew he was joking but I wanted to praise his qualities as a manager and how the “P” of his personality really helped his management style. So what do I say to him? “I think you’re a great manager because of your P-ness…”
If it hasn’t hit you by now, try saying it out loud to yourself. That’s right, I earnestly and without hesitating for a moment to think it through, told my boss that it was because of his “P-ness” he was a good office manager. Needless to say this was an awkward moment.
I have these moments all the time and they seem to be happening more frequently as I try on my role as a leader in ministry. In church last week I was assisting at the altar and I began to serve the wine before the priest had given the bread. Those of you from a heavily liturgical church culture know how much of a faux pas this is. Before I even realized what I was doing I was being told by the poor soul receiving the sacrament that I needed to wait, the priest hadn’t gotten to him yet. I knew my actions were out of order, I was raised in the church and yet I was making a mistake I never imagined myself to make.
Luckily for me, in all of these situations I have been given a smile, a laugh, and kind pat on the back. People try to make me feel better and it becomes a great story for us all to share, I’m sure. If I am really lucky I let myself laugh at my mistakes but this doesn’t always come so easily. The embarrassment of these moments is so incredibly painful and in the moments after it has happened I cannot believe what an idiot I am. I go through my mind wishing to God I had the power to turn back time and erase the mistake I made.
But these things happen to all of us; a priest told me once about a time he saw another priest’s pants come down in the middle of the church service. I’ve seen people pass out when they serve in church or say the wrong name in a ceremony. I’ve heard of people calling their boss or worse- their spouse- by the wrong name. My husband accuses me of this constantly as I accidentally (I swear) call him by our dog’s name. It’s terrible. It happens. It’s human. But let’s be honest, it still sucks.
I tend to be a perfectionist and hold myself to high standards so these foot-in-mouth moments often knock the wind out of me. In the days after the incident occurs I find myself asking God, “Why did I do that?” And when I am feeling really depressed, “God, why did you let me say that?”I never get a straightforward response by the way.
In my recent pondering over the embarrassing things I do I have realized that when other people make a mistake I am usually one of the first one’s to rush to their side and say, “Hey, I’ve been there, it’s okay. You’re just fine.” But I still have a harder time forgiving myself than I do others, for when I make a mistake my thoughts are not friendly, they are downright mean. Why can’t I extend the same grace to myself that I would extend to someone else?
So much of learning to love is focused on loving others. I am a huge advocate of this, I follow a man whose main teaching is to love your neighbor as yourself. But we often forget that it does say, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I am not talking about the egotistical love of one’s self, the selfish love that clouds our vision of the needs of others. I am talking about that tender love that sits at the heart of our existence.
This self-love comes from somewhere outside of us, not just the love we get from others, but the love we have been given from our beginning. The love that we receive simply because we were created and born into the world. It means we are loved independently of anything else. We are loved simply because we exist. Maybe if we remembered this love of self we might have an easier time forgiving our mistakes.
It might sound simple, but I don’t think it is. I still play these embarrassing moments on rerun in my mind cringing every time. Maybe our mistakes are a reminder that we are not perfect, but they can also be a lesson in learning to love. A challenge for me right now is learning to be gentle with myself. Do you love yourself? Not for you who could be, or what you do but for who you are? Even when you make mistakes?
I would love to hear your foot-in-mouth stories.
Hmmm foot in mouth stories: wow I have so many. I swear I try to think before I speak, but a lot of the time I still manage to say the wrong thing. One story that came to my memory recently was the time a met my friend’s girlfriend. We were camping together for the weekend, and I had never met her and knew nearly nothing about her. In one of our first conversations, I proceeded to rant about how I disliked cheerleader and sorority girls. Saying some pretty mean things about them. My friend then proceeded to tell me that his girlfriend was both. OOPS! They didn’t stay together, so I don’t have to see her anymore, and when I met his new girl friend recently, I tried very hard to be friendly and not say anything offensive, but boy did I feel stupid.
Oh, that’s awesome and I have totally done that kind of thing before too. What do you do to rebound from that kind of thing?
Erin, have your ever heard me say “Love yourself. Be kind to yourself”? I say this a lot – usually in the context of my kids or sisters. I think people have a tendency to be too hard on themselves. I believe you need to love yourself and respect yourself for you to be able to have honest, caring relationships with other people. Very nice article!
Thanks Karen. You are so right on and when I’m with you I feel like it’s okay to be gentle with myself, you’re great at modeling this.
I don’t think I ever did a very good job of rebounding in that particular situation. Normally, people who know me just laugh and don’t take offense. I definitely apologize a log. Apparently, I am known for making stupid comments like that.
Blah and above is another example of me making a mistake. I replied to the wrong post 😀
You’re awesome Becky! 🙂
This post makes me smile. When I make foolish, goofy, embarrassing mistakes I have some inner shrinking and punishment that I do. I try to refrain from doing that, but my first response is always to retreat into myself and replay the moment. Like you, I have just had to learn not to take myself so seriously. I appreciate being humbled and put in my place. I imagine God saying to me…with a bit of sarcasm, but much love…”You are just too precious; there you go again wanting to be perfect! Leave the perfection up to me.” My studies around nonviolence have also helped with this. Pouring love in allows for you to pour love out. The more accepting and loving of yourself, the more accepting and loving you are of others. I try to realize that these are the best moments to love myself and to accept me as 100% authentic and real. I am His creation! Our positive and negative traits come as a package deal! He created me to be me, so I might as well own and love it as I grow in grace! (Keep ’em coming!)
Love these thoughts Mitzi! Thanks for sharing and your encouragement.
I’ve learned that for me there can be shame underneath that lack of acceptance of myself. Shame that I am not perfect, a deep belief that I am defective in some way. Starting to heal that shame meant that I didn’t overreact as much when I made a mistake, that I didn’t take every mistake so hard. That shame came from somewhere and I needed to uncover the source of that shame, and give it to God to heal it and transform it. God has begun to transform that lack of acceptance of myself, and helped me open myself up to others more fully as a result.
Karen, well said. I love your point about deep shame. That is something I am trying to understand, learn to let go of and have faith God can and will transform it.
Kudos, Erin, on making delicious lemonade out of some of life’s lemons.