It’s interesting. There are people out there who decided to stop speaking to someone vs. admitting they’re wrong.
Countries war, families break up, friends stop speaking. All due to pride. Because the opposite of pride is shame. And shame hurts.
I’ve been through it. And I’m willing to bet you have too. An email with faulty information. A spreadsheet with an error in a formula. Forwarding a message that contains erroneous material. And then you realize it.
I was a financial controller for decades. I did good work. My reviews were quite high. I was highly thought of and performed well. But I sure as heck wasn’t perfect! One time, for example, I’d just completed budgets. Fifteen-hour days, seven days a week, day after day for six weeks. Worksheets that contained dozens of tabs that pulled together to form the entire budget. Lots of coffee consumption, let me tell you!
One year, I was done. The budgets were in the books, and I was about to hand them out to the various department heads. And then I saw it. A small number on one line of hundreds of lines in couple of the mini departments was wrong.
I stared at my screen. My gut contracted. How could I make such a mistake? Why didn’t I see it? It was right there! It was glaring at me. Mocking me. I held my head in my hands. What was I going to do? Maybe if I just ignored it, it would go away.
But, as much as I wanted to ignore it, I knew I had to face it.
The first thing I had to do was to tell my boss. I sat at my desk, not moving. I closed my eyes. I took a deep breath, opened my eyes, and got up. I dragged myself into my boss’s office and told her.
I was lucky! My boss at the time was the most understanding person you could ever work for. True to form, she smiled at me and said it was okay. She said it didn’t matter. She said it was such a small number in total, it simply had no relevance. Life would go on.
A rush of gratitude and relief flowed over me as though I was standing under the Niagara Falls. I learned two lessons, and they were both the size of Mt. Everest.
First of all, when someone is admitting they screwed up, be generous and be forgiving. That happened at the beginning of our work relationship and to this day, even though I no longer work for her, I would still break my neck for her.
Number two, history is history. You can’t change the past, but you can learn from it. If you make a mistake and try to hide it, it won’t become history. It will live. It will fester. It will hurt you.
But if you face your mistake, it will make you a better person and a wiser person. You will earn the respect of others. Because they’ve been there too. Marvin Williams once said, “There is no better test of a man’s integrity than his behavior when he is wrong.”
We are all human. And humans make mistakes. Don’t be ashamed. Just be wise.