“Success has a thousand fathers,” the saying goes, “but failure is an orphan.”
Perhaps that’s often because the only thing more difficult than realizing we’ve made a mistake is summoning the strength necessary to own it. Accepting honest responsibility for our missteps instead of passing the buck. Making amends instead of making excuses.
We know mistakes are inevitable, but accepting them is hard: Our mistakes make us real. Being real makes us vulnerable. And vulnerability always brings with it some terrifying combination of raw exposure and emotional risk.
The truth is— we don’t really believe we’re bulletproof, but we would like everyone else to think we are. Maybe then they’d turn their attention to other things instead of waiting for Life to snipe us from the side. Perhaps our humanity might manage to go undetected. We could set up shop on the superficial surface of things. We’d never have to go too deep. Never have to risk getting too hurt.
To live in the light is to risk exposure. To create anything (art, a relationship or a even a life) requires us to show up. To be real. To break if we have to, knowing deep in our bones that mistakes are not painful setbacks, but portals of discovery.
Oscar Wilde wrote: “Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one’s mistakes.”
Which is to say we learn more from our failures than we do our successes. We don’t know where we need to grow until we’ve had the unpleasant experience of coming up short. And no matter who we’ve hurt, what we’ve destroyed or how we may have fallen from grace, the truth is: We don’t make mistakes.
The mistakes make us.