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‘To err is human,’ or the fine art of blowing it - 10/19/2017

Yom Kippur has come and gone and, in observance of the holiday, you’ve already asked for and received forgiveness for last year’s errors and transgressions. Now, you’re ready to face a new year, during which you will surely err again. But, have no fear, because a year from now, G-d will once again hear your pleas for absolution and grant you forgiveness. The real problem is: Will or can you forgive yourself and/or others for their sins? Fortunately, I recently came across an article written by Charles R. Swindoll, titled “The Fine Art of Blowing It,” which deals with that subject.

His thoughts are ones I totally agreed with. Therefore, I am sending it to all of you in the hope it will mean as much to you as it did to me. It reinforces what I’ve frequently said to patients in the past: “We’re all capable of blowing it. No one is or needs to be perfect. After all, blowing it serves only to prove you’re human and, therefore, capable of error, of failure and making mistakes.”

I might add, I believe the Bible suggests even G-d decided, after turning everyone in Sodom and Gomorrah to stone and flooding the world, that these actions weren’t something he’d choose to do again. Accordingly, I’d have every one of you realize making mistakes isn’t a sin; you have to accept that errors are forgivable and all you need do is learn from them after you make them. All of which are ways of being kind to yourself and accepting your humanness. Please remember this while you read his article.

* * *

“It happens to every one of us. Teachers as well as students; cops as well as criminals. Bosses as well as secretaries. Parents as well as kids. The diligent as well as the lazy. Not even presidents are immune, or, corporation heads who earn six-figure salaries. The same is true of well-meaning architects and hard-working builders and clear-thinking engineers ... not to mention pro-ball players, politicians and preachers.

“What? Making mistakes, that’s what. Doing the wrong thing, usually with the best of motives. And, it happens with remarkable regularity.

“Let’s face it, success is overrated. All of us crave it, despite daily proof that man’s real genius lies in quite the opposite direction. It’s really incompetence we’re all pros at. Which brings me to a basic question that has been burning inside me for months: How come we’re so surprised when we see it in others and so devastated when it has occurred in ourselves?

“Show me the guy who wrote the rules for perfectionism, and I’ll guarantee he’s a nail-biter with a face full of tics ... whose wife dreads to see him come home. Furthermore, he forfeits the right to be respected, because he’s either guilty of not admitting he blew it, or he has become an expert at cover-up.

“You can do that, you know. Stop and think of ways certain people can keep from coming out and confessing they blew it. Doctors can bury their mistakes. Lawyers’ mistakes get shut up in prison – literally. Dentists’ mistakes are pulled. Plumbers’ mistakes are stopped. Carpenters turn theirs into sawdust. I like what I read in a magazine recently.

“ ‘Just in case you find any mistakes in this magazine, please remember they were put there for a purpose. We try to offer something for everyone. Some people are always looking for mistakes and we didn’t want to disappoint you!’

“Hey, there have been some real winners! Back in 1957, Ford bragged about ‘the car of the decade. The Edsel.’ Unless you lucked out, the Edsel you bought had a door that wouldn’t close, a hood that wouldn’t open, a horn that kept getting stuck, paint that peeled, and a transmission that wouldn’t fulfill its mission. One business writer likened the Edsel’s sales graph to an extremely dangerous ski slope. He added, so far as he knew, there was only one case on record of an Edsel ever being stolen.

“And, how about that famous tower in Italy? The leaning tower almost 20 feet out of perpendicular. The guy that planned that foundation to be only 10 feet deep (for a building 179 feet tall) didn’t possess the world’s largest brain. How would you like to have listed in your resume: ‘Designed the Leaning Tower of Pisa’?”

A friend of mine, realizing how adept I am in this business of blowing it, passed on to me an amazing book (accurate, but funny), titled “The Incomplete Book of Failures,” by Stephen Pile. Appropriately, the book, itself, had two missing pages when it was printed, so the first thing you read is an apology for the omission – and an erratum slip that provides the two pages.

Among the many wild and crazy reports are such things as the least- successful weather report, the worst computer, the most-boring lecture, the worst aircraft, the slowest-selling book, the smallest-ever audience, the ugliest building ever constructed, the most- chaotic wedding ceremony, and some of the worst statements … proven wrong by posterity. Some of those statements, for example, were:

• “Far too noisy, my dear Mozart. Far too many notes.” – The Emperor Ferdinand after the first performance of “The Marriage of Figaro”

• “If Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony is not by some means abridged, it will soon fall into disuse.” – Philip Hale, Boston music critic, 1837

• “Rembrandt is not to be compared in the painting of character with our extraordinarily gifted English artist Mr. Rippingille.” – John Hunt (1775-1848)

• “Flight by machines heavier than air is unpractical and insignificant … utterly impossible.” – Simon Newcomb (1835-1909)

• “We don’t like their sound. Groups of guitars are on their way out.” – Decca Recording Co., turning down The Beatles in 1962

• “You will never amount to very much.” – A Munich schoolmaster to Albert Einstein, age 10

And, on and on it goes. The only thing we can be thankful for, when it comes to blowing, it is nobody keeps a record of ours. Or, do they? Or, do you with others?

Come on, ease off. If our perfect L-rd is gracious enough to take our worst, our ugliest, our most boring, our least successful, our leaning-tower failures, our Edsel flops, and forgive them, burying them in the depths of the sea, then it’s high time we give each other a break.

In fact, He promises full acceptance, along with full forgiveness, in print for all to read … without an erratum sheet attached. Isn’t that encouraging? Can’t we be that type of encourager to one another? After all, imperfection is one of the few things we still have in common. It links us close together in the same family!

So then, whenever one of us blows it, and we can’t hide it, how about a little support from those who haven’t been caught yet?

Oops, correction. How about a lot of support?

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