How many times have you done it? You said the wrong thing at the wrong time to the wrong person? You made a mistake at work, forgotten to pay a bill, or left your child sitting at school when you were supposed to pick him up? Yep, I’ve done that! We all make mistakes. How we handle those mistakes makes a tremendous difference in how we see ourselves and the world. Learning to apply the right measure of self-compassion and personal responsibility impact how well we handle similar situations in the future, how others trust us to handle situations in the future, and lessons learned by our children and those who look to us as role models.
3 Ways to Handle Your Mess Ups:
Human beings mess up in countless ways. There are literally endless possibilities when it comes to things we can do wrong, both big and small. On the contrary, there are only three ways we handle those mess ups. We either beat ourselves up, we refuse to see our part in the mistake, or we learn to apply compassionate responsibility.
Beating Yourself Up Over Mistakes
Beating yourself up over mistakes is a common go-to measure. You may do something wrong or say something inadvertently and then dig yourself a neat little pity party. This often involves blaming yourself for being, “so stupid” – or awkward, fat, dumb, ugly, clumsy, etc. Fill in the blank you use here; the possibilities for negative self talk are endless. This verbal tongue lashing causes you to focus on yourself and the negative within you. Negative self-talk does not allow you to study your flaws so you can work on improving them. Worse, it does not allow you to reach out to the person you hurt to make amends or heal the insult you caused.
Sometimes the tongue lashings go beyond the moment of mistake too. In these situations, words like “always” and “never” are used. Here, you beat yourself up by secretly repeating things about how you *never* get anything right or how you *always* do this, that, and the other thing. Rather than compartmentalizing the negative, mentally beating yourself up lets your mistake overpower your gifts. Rather than letting the good flow into the bad, you reverse tidal waters and let the bad flow into chasms of good it has no right to be in. The mistake you made then takes on global and eternal characteristics it was never intended to have.
When you perform negative self-talk, you form neuro pathways that train your brain to think a certain way. Feelings often quickly follow thoughts. Sometimes feelings follow thoughts so quickly, it is difficult to tell which came first or to realize your thought caused the feeling at all. Negative self-talk can sometimes lead to more significant self-harm. Beating yourself up, mentally or otherwise, always interferes with the creative genius God designed you to have.
Refusing Your Part in Your Error
While some people go to great lengths to play the martyr and abuse themselves for making mistakes, others seem to go in the opposite direction. Instead of bearing all the blame, these folks tend to bear none of it. In fact, they are usually pretty good at pointing out other factors that caused the incident to happen. Many of those factors tend to have some piece of truth to them too.
For example, a woman who is unhappy in her Marriage will gossip to friends or social media groups but call it venting thus shrugging responsibility for her part in the crumbling relationship. Another example might be a man who makes an accounting error on a job site and then blames the homeowner, rising costs, or lazy employees when what he should have done is asked the homeowner more specific questions, researched rising costs, and gotten to know his employees better.
Again, there are countless scenarios here, but in every one, the person making the error refuses to take personal responsibility. By doing this, you consciously or unconsciously hope to divert attention from your flaws. You usually succeed in your deflection of attention for a moment, but while you temporarily divert attention, you also gives away your power. By blaming others and failing to see how you can change your future, you succumb to a victim mindset and ensure a less than spectacular future.
Fortunately, there is a third option – Compassionate Responsibility. When you practice compassionate responsibility, you admit wrongdoing without inflicting harm, make amends the best way possible, and grow in the process.
Compassionate responsibility takes virtues not often lauded in society today. It is a practice you must do daily through an examination of conscience and in the moment self reflection.We are often made aware of our mistakes in quiet times of prayer, journaling, and solitude. While the world tells us to fill up every moment with selfies, social media, and other distractions, it is through our quiet that God speaks to us and we begin to understand ourselves and grow in inner peace. This is where compassionate responsibility flourishes.
Compassionate responsibility requires maturity, self-awareness, patience, courage, and humility. In many instances, practicing compassionate responsibility may seem to take supernatural Graces. This is especially when old habits have been ingrained in our thought patterns or where family history has passed on poor ways of dealing with flaws or conflict.
Supernatural Graces do Exist
Imagine for a moment, the worst possible embarrassment happening with you as the star of the show. Imagine you are caught in the act of adultery 2000 years ago. You hasten to drag a thin blanket to cover your nakedness as the temple hierarchy grab you bodily and thrust you through the crowded streets. Passerby stop and stare. A crowd gathers. You know you are wrong. You know you should not have had sex with that man. You are guilty as charged.
Then you are thrown to the ground in front of this man named Jesus of Nazareth.
And one by one your accusers leave until all that is left is you and this one perfect man, and He does not condemn you but neither does He let you off scott free. He tells you He who knows all knows what you have done. He knows your guilt. He knows your shame, your suffering, your excuses, your story, but He does not condemn you nor does He let you slide. Instead He tells you to rise and sin no more.
That is compassionate responsibility. It is a model of how we are to treat ourselves. In His actions Jesus showed the importance of being able to see ourselves as we truly are, not to condemn or excuse but to grow and serve as a model for others (John 8:1-11).
Beating yourself stems from not understanding value is gifted to you by the Divine Creator not by your own deeds or misdeeds. Refusing to accept your part in failure results in shrugging off responsibility and letting others take the fall or clean up your mess. Compassionate responsibility is where you know your worth and are grateful that worth is not tied up in accomplishments. It is when you want to learn more than you want to avoid. Compassionate responsibility is not a once and done thing or a goal to check off your list. It is an ongoing practice as mistakes are a part of life.
Compassionate responsibility is not easy to achieve, but it is a worthwhile practice and practicing gratitude for the example given us by Christ and the woman caught in adultery increases those quieter virtues and helps speed up the cycle of compassionate responsibility.
If you are interested in measuring your own level of self compassion, please take the Self-Compassion Assessment.
If you are interested in building Resilience, Optimism, and Opportunity to strengthen Body, Mind, and Soul, please join the Made for You Challenge launching this Spring! You can find out more by joining the Facebook group MADE FOR THIS or emailing Kerri@StrahlenGrace.com.