Even big cats feel it. Shame. We just don’t want to show ourselves when we’ve messed up. Maybe we think if we can’t see them, they won’t be able to see us in all our shameful, miserable glory.
I managed to mess up at my job yesterday. It was fixable, (thankfully) but it was an error in judgment on my part. I was at fault. Plain and simple. Today I got a call from the office and ended up speaking with my boss and found out what had happened and I guess I handled it well enough. I explained how it had happened but I didn’t blame anyone else and took responsibility. I asked for forgiveness. I moved on.
Or did I? Because lingering all day has been the sense that now my boss won’t trust me again. That my error has created such a schism between us, that it’ll never be repaired. I had fantasies of quitting (okay, of offering to quit with the hope that this offer wouldn’t be accepted). I talked it out with a co-worker and that felt better, and by the end of the afternoon, perspective had mostly returned.
It was fixable. That is first and foremost. The other thing I learned was that even if nobody knows you made a mistake, you do. Let me explain. What happened probably wasn’t going to be apparent to really anyone and some folks would have just let it go. The higher road was taken by my boss, though, who did something to rectify the situation, even if nobody else involved necessarily knew about it. As he explained to me, “Even if nobody else knows we made this error…. we know it.” And he’s absolutely, dead-on right. Ultimately we have to live with ourselves. That means we make the bed even if we know nobody else will see it made all day – except for the cat who can snuggle up for an afternoon snooze. And we make things right with others – for ourselves.
The other thing I’m learning is one I have had the privilege of learning a few times – I am not perfect and I’m going to mess up occasionally. I don’t like it anymore than anyone else. But it’s humbling. And I, like most of us, can use a little bit of humbling now and again. One of the main differences is that although I initially felt the sting of shame, now sitting here many hours afterwards, I can feel the gift of humility and loving myself as I am.
As it turns out, when I did a search on the net, I found a pretty good little article on messing up and bouncing back from Yahoo! Hotjobs. Even without consulting the article, I managed to do just about everything they suggest. Another article from Fortune (dated from 1995, but still useful) is titled So You Fail. Now Bounce Back . It’s good to know that Bill Gates just might hire me because he likes to hire people who’ve made mistakes – “shows they’ve taken risks.” I probably won’t be sending him my resume anytime soon.