Posts Tagged ‘error

25
Jul
21

It’s a Blunder-ful Life

The website Dictionary.com defines a blunder as, “… a gross, stupid, or careless mistake.”

Blunders are errors that reside multiple levels above missteps like, say, putting the pasta away on the baking shelf, or calling John Jim, or taking a sip of your wife’s iced tea instead of your own.

Oh, if only it were that simple.

For me, a blunder is what you call it when your screw-up meets three different criteria; first, it was the wrong thing to do. Second, it could – by taking a minute to stop and think – have been avoided. And third, it caused some kind of not-insignificant damage… either to the blunderer him/herself, or to an innocent bystander. 

Looking back on my life, I can recount errors, mistakes, faux pas, and goof-ups aplenty.

But sadly, also littered across the landscape of my 69 years, are multiple blunders

Let me tell you about one of my most recent. 

It happened earlier this year, when Joan and I were visiting my eldest son, DIL, and their five kids. The nine of us assembled in Houston, preparing to head to a lovely beach house on Galveston Island for the Easter weekend. 

Before heading to the beach, son, two youngest grandsons, and I headed over to the park for some playful time-wasting. The two kids headed immediately to the swing set where they met a friend… the son of my son’s co-worker. 

The game that ensued between the kids was the ever-popular, “Who Can Swing the Highest and Then Jump the Furthest Off the Swing.” At first, the dads were just refereeing the competition by drawing lines in the mulch pit to mark where each kid landed. Then the dads decided to get involved, rudely shoving their children aside, growling, “My turn, junior!”

(They didn’t really do that, but it sounds funnier when I say that…)

Seeing all the fun the dads (my son) and their kids (my grandson) were having, I decided it was time for Grandpa to give it a go. 

As it turned out, that was a really bad idea. 

I mounted the swing and began my ascent. I pumped my legs and got the swing up as high as I could. Once up there in the stratosphere, I realized this was going to be a lot more difficult than either the six- or the 40-year-olds made it look. 

Closing my eyes and hoping for the best, I bailed out at the exact apogee of my next upward swing. Finally airborne, I immediately felt a sharp pain in my right pinkie finger and began twisting in that direction. I landed on my left side with a resounding thud eighteen inches from my takeoff point. Looking down I saw that my right pinkie finger had apparently become tangled in the swing chain and was now bleeding profusely. 

Of course, the dads and kids all rushed over, visibly concerned and asking, “Are you alright? Are you alright?” 

“Well, I think I might lose this fingernail, but otherwise, I think I’m OK,” I replied, no small amount of embarrassment blood rising to fill my cheeks.

Thankfully, the fingernail survived, though dignity and self-esteem took a serious beating that day. Joan got me a bandage to staunch the bleeding, but did not seem terribly sympathetic to my plight. 

I’m not sure what the moral of this story is other than, “Act your age,” or “Think before you act,” or maybe just “Don’t do it, Grandpa. Just don’t.”

The reality is: we all commit blunders. Sometimes the consequences are big. Sometimes they are small. Sometimes we learn from our blunders. Sometimes we just keep on blundering, unenlightened. 

The point is as much as we try, none of us will live a blunder-free life. Hopefully the blunders will be fewer and further between as we (gracefully) age. 

As King Solomon tells us in the book of Proverbs: “I applied my heart to what I observed
and learned a lesson from what I saw…” 
(Proverbs 24:32, NRSV).

Abundant blessings;

12
Oct
20

Pointing It Out

Sometimes, I really appreciate it.

Like, for instance, when we are out dining with friends and Joan sees a big blob of spaghetti sauce on my chin and then signals me – using that secret sign language couples develop over time – to reach up and wipe it off. 

At other times… OK, I’ll own it; MOST other times… I am much less enthusiastic about having my flaws pointed out by someone else. 

I would much prefer to go through life clinging to the belief that I am possessed of an unerring ability to reflect and correct, all by myself. 

I mean, what the heck! I’m a WRITER, for crying out loud! I spend a lot of time trotting out a sentence, stepping back and eyeing it dispassionately, finding all of its flaws, errors in syntax, grammar, and construction, and then fixing it! 

Why shouldn’t I be perfectly capable of doing the same thing with all of the other parts of my life? I mean, why do I need Joan – or ANYONE, for that matter – to point my defects out to me? I’ll find them and fix them myself, thank you very much!

Wouldn’t we all prefer to believe that we have the same kind of internal GPS system our cell phones are equipped with? You know, the one that sees a traffic jam up ahead, plots a new course, and then calmly, confidently tells us, “Rerouting!”

Sadly, that is not the nature of the world we live in. All of us – even the super-attuned ones among us – need the loving correction of a pair of eyes that belong to someone else. 

Even when… maybe especially when… that correction stings a little. 

A wise Chinese philosopher once said, “Do not correct a fool or he will hate you. Correct a wise man and he will appreciate you.” 

Or, as our hero, Jesus the Christ, once famously said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:32, NRSV). 

Of course, our willingness to receive correction has a lot to do with the manner in which it is offered. Oddly enough, I did not immediately say, “Thank you!” to the guy who blew his horn at me and helpfully suggested I should, “LEARN HOW TO DRIVE, MORON!!”

But our response to correction probably has a lot more to do with our willingness to receive it. Do we fear correction? Do we see it as a condemnation or rejection? Or do we see it as a compassionate act, motivated by another person’s desire to guide us toward excellence?

I will be the first to admit that this is still very much a growing edge for me. Too often I receive correction today – at the age of 68 – not very much differently than I received it at the age of 8.

Fortunately, though, I regularly give Joan and others around me, plenty of opportunity to help me work on correcting this personal blind spot. And thankfully, they do.

So, I guess I will close by asking you this: What do you think? How did I do? What should I change or correct about this post?

Go ahead… I can take it.

Abundant blessings;

10
Sep
19

An MVP Mistake

Patrick MahomesPat made a mistake.

Yes, hard to believe as it is, the All-Star phenom, Most Valuable Player quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs football team, Patrick Mahomes, made a mistake Sunday.

He tried to throw a pass to his tight end Travis Kelce without looking in his direction at all. Kelce was wide open. The pass – accurately thrown – would have resulted in a touchdown. But instead, the ball fluttered over Kelce’s head and fell to the ground like another piece of debris on the field.

(Note to the reader: in case you are not a fan, this isn’t entirely a blog post about football. I am using football as a handy metaphor to illustrate a larger, hopefully, more important, point. Hang in with me for a minute, OK?)

Never mind that Patrick threw three other, really great touchdown passes that day. Never mind that he had more passing yards in the first quarter of the game than any NFL quarterback since Peyton Manning in 2004. Never mind that he threw no interceptions at all in the game.

He made that silly mistake in the first quarter.

Patrick, how COULD you?

I speak to you today as a man well acquainted with mistakes. I recognize them easily because in my life I have made many more than my share.

Some of my mistakes have been big. Many have been small. Some have resulted in physical or emotional injury to another person. Some have gone unnoticed by everyone except me.

Many have been caused – just like my man Patrick’s goofy, no-look pass attempt Sunday – by failing to fully or accurately assess the situation I was in… failing to adequately anticipate the consequences of an erroneous word or decision.

I suspect I am not the only one here who can list more than a few mistakes on my life resume. (Although this is probably a great moment to slip in a mention of the one thing I did really, really well some 20 years agoproposing marriage to the lovely Miss Joan Bare.)

And I will be honest; some of those mistakes still haunt my quiet moments now and then.

The question I would like to pose to us mistake makers in the crowd is: How will your mistakes from the past influence your actions in the future?

We can’t just wipe all of our mistakes from our mental/emotional hard drive as if they never happened. In each one of those miscues or mis-steps there was no doubt the seed of a valuable lesson. If we could somehow forget the mistake, we might also forget the lesson that mistake brought with it.

By the same token, we can’t blow our errors up all out of proportion and let them take over the entire narrative of our lives.

You might not be surprised to learn that Jesus has a couple of insightful thoughts on this subject that might help us figure this out. We see regular examples of this throughout his ministry, but one of the most vivid can be found in the story of his encounter with the “woman caught in adultery” in the eighth chapter of John’s gospel.

The woman clearly messed up. Badly. The Mosaic Law was unequivocal about what should happen to adulterers. A small knot of righteous religious men stood ready to inflict deadly consequences on the woman when Jesus stepped in.

After challenging the would-be judges to examine their own track records and mistakes, Jesus sends the woman on her way with these words: “’Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, sir.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.’”(John 8:10b-11, NRSV).

I think we are meant to hear a word for our own lives in this story. Personally, I hear Jesus saying to me, “Russell, your mistakes do not tell the whole story of your life. Learn from them so that you don’t repeat them. And then go and live the new life of a forgiven, redeemed man.”

Thanks, Jesus. I really needed to hear that today.

And the same goes for you, Mahomie!




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