07
Jul
22

“My bad. I’m Sorry.”

Joan told me.

“I’m sorry, honey.”

In fact, more than once.

She made sure I knew it was MY responsibility.

And yet, when we parked our car and got ready to catch the shuttle bus to the Fort Collins City Fourth of July fireworks display, we both saw that I had screwed up.

Royally.

Going to the back of the car and opening the hatchback, we immediately discovered that I had NOT – despite being explicitly asked to do so – packed the portable camp chairs. 

So there we were… staring face-to-face with the prospect of spending the next two hours either standing up or sitting down on the damp grass of City Park.

 What a DOOFUS!

But do you know what the really sad part of the story is? The REALLY sad part was my response.

Instead of bowing my head in shame, apologizing, accepting the scorn being so justifiably heaped on me, and then trying to figure out ways to salvage our evening, I INSTANTLY went into denial, deflection, and defense mode.

  • “Well, we were rushing around so much there at the last minute, and I got sidetracked.”
  • “I thought YOU were getting the chairs!”
  • “Weren’t we concerned about having to lug those chairs around with us for hours and hours?”

It is one thing to screw up. We all do it… in large matters, or small.

It is another thing entirely to accept responsibility for one’s errors. 

But don’t take my word for it. Just look around. National and international news is filled – EVERY DAY – with people contorting themselves into all kinds of outrageous shapes, trying to avoid the blame for their mistakes. They say things like:

  • “It seemed like the right thing to do at the time…”
  • “I didn’t have all the information I needed to make that decision correctly…”

And then there is my all-time favorite…

  • “What are you talking about? I didn’t do that!/That wasn’t me! Who you gonna believe… me, or your lying eyes?”

It is hard. REALLY hard to stand up, raise your hand, and say, “Yes. I did that. I committed that error. I am the one – the ONLY one – responsible for the thing that went wrong.”

Accepting responsibility for a mistake is hard because none of us sets out to screw up. We each believe we are living our lives, making our decisions, taking our actions, and speaking our truths to the very best of our abilities. 

I am pretty certain that even those who have committed the vilest crimes imaginable told themselves, “This is the right thing to do at this moment.”

Confessing and owning up to a mistake is hard because it means accepting a different image of myself. It means dying to the image of myself as the guy who always hits the nail on the head, who always shoots and scores, who always provides the golden key that unlocks the mystery du jour.

It means accepting an image of myself as the guy who absentmindedly forgets to pack camp chairs into the car. 

The good folks at AA and NA know a thing or two about this phenomenon. Step One of the Twelve Steps is all about admitting your abject powerlessness over your propensity to err. From that fertile base of acknowledged powerlessness, then, comes the step of confessing the need of a Greater Power to restore you to sanity.

As much as I love the Friends of Bill W. and their amazing history of success, I think John the Revelator hit the nail a little more squarely on the head when he said, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8-9, NRSVU). 

Every one of us is flawed. Every one of us “steps in it” now and then. Every one of us does damage – intentionally or unintentionally – to the people closest to us. 

Hopefully though we each also readily confess our shortcomings, turn to our Loving Creator for help, and then grow a centimeter or two in our stature as humans in the process…

… and do a better job of packing for the fireworks show.

Abundant blessings;


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