Lately, I’ve been trying to encourage my kids to mess up. “Messing up is the best thing you can do, and making mistakes is the only way to learn,” I preached to Eden who cried after forgetting to do her homework. She threw me a deservedly suspicious look. My sermon was another example of the famous “Do as I say, not as I do.” “Be quiet, Ima,” the child said. Perhaps the wisest words heard that day.
How I wish to be always perfect, patient, polite, empathic, wise, thoughtful and kind. Never yell at the kids, never make a mistake, always treat other human beings with patience and respect. How I wish each of my actions and words came from the heart, out of love and compassion and trust.
|The perfect imperfection of nature|
Why is it so much easier to be kinder to another person than to myself? I look at Eden’s forgetfulness of her homework and see it as a path to growth, a lucky break from which she can learn so much. But when I make a mistake, especially if it is about the kids or my writing, it is an earth-shattering disaster, a trauma unlikely ever to be healed, a case for putting more money in my savings jar for the psychiatrist, the horrible, terrible end.
In The Willpower Instinct, Dr. Kelly McGonigal writes about research that shows that people are less likely to repeat their mistakes if they are treated with compassion. Subjects of an experiment who were told not to worry about their candy consumption, because everyone sometimes eats too much, ate fewer pieces than their counterparts who were not given the reassuring message. It takes so little, it seems, to make us feel happier, loved and secure. It takes so little, just a few words, to make us remember to cling to our higher self’s dreams and goals.
But how to change habits of a lifetime? I am so used to dance to my inner Critic’s music that I can barely hear any tune other than his. Even trying to talk to the Critic seems to fail. A long list of grievances spews from his lips, and as I listen to him, I find myself questioning myself: Could he be right? Am I really like this?
“If I don’t push you, you will never do anything,” the Critic says. And it seems to me to be true. And yet I wonder: what if he could learn to push with compassion? What if instead of criticisms, he could provide gentle, empathic reminders? Seems to me my Critic and I have a lot in common. We both of us wish to be more patient and kind. Perhaps, if I could forgive him his messes, he could forgive me mine? Perhaps if we joined hands, something, finally, can be done?
To all of this joins another desire: to be an example to my children. To be able to say, “Do as I do.” I would love for them to grow up criticism-free. And perhaps, with that, as with everything else, I need to remember: don’t worry, everyone messes up. It’s the best learning way.