Wednesday, 1 April 2015

On Mistakes: Quoting, Apologising and Correcting

"A good man apologizes for the mistakes of the past, but a great man corrects them." 
(Attributed to Goethe, on TV Show Forever)

When I heard this quote in the storyline of the TV show Forever it hit a note. It was exactly what I tried to explain this week to a colleague. A mistake was made and my colleague, in his honesty and integrity, immediately wanted to admit to it and apologise to those affected. I stopped him. 

I always consider the first thing anyone should do, in this situation, is apologise. However it doesn't always help those let down. So on this occasion I said to wait to see if we could fix it. I said it all kinds of ways that didn't quite express what I meant, but when I heard the above quote, I realised it was what I was trying to say. We can apologise to people, for all kinds of reasons, for being late, for forgetting things, for doing wrong but we should also try to avoid making the same mistake again. To learn from it and to make reparation to those who have suffered because of the mistake. That is really being sorry for what you have done. So sorry you don't want to do it again and you want to fix it.

Although I was enamoured by the Forever/Goethe quote, I realised that I ran the risk of making a mistake if I didn't check out its origin. So I did some research and found no reliable source of evidence that Goethe actually said these words*. So, rather than continue with the mistake, I am going to correct it here and create from the Forever 'quote',  a new mantra for myself, (leaving out the labelling of the person as 'man' or 'good' to instead focus on the behaviour) and try to live and learn by it.

My mantra is:

It's good to apologise for a mistake but it's better to fix it.
(R.A. Lynch, Youth & Community Worker & Writer, 2015)

* And if I'm mistaken about the Goethe quote being wrong, I will apologise and fix it.

More on Mistakes...

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