The Russian Doll of Mistakes: Dissecting the Concept of Mistakes (Part 2)

In our previous deep dive, we discussed the definitions of the different types of mistakes and the nuances between mistakes and being wrong. We now ought to look into the impacts mistakes have on the perpetrator and those affected by said mistakes.

When mistakes are committed repeatedly, whether they be trivial or severe, they ultimately distort one’s perception of the individual committing said mistakes and even create rifts between people. While there is no doubt that severe mistakes strain relationships between friends or family, one must realize that humans can be leery and untrusting. Over-exposure is a real issue in today’s world, where you are constantly learning different things from the news, friends, family, and especially social media. Scrolling down your Instagram feed you might come across someone who has recently been cheated on, and their devastating story makes you want to be more cautious with your relationships. Trivial mistakes become triggers for over-thinking. Your significant other forgot to text you or call you today? Oh dear, what if they’re seeing someone behind your back?! Some people are so afraid of being hurt that they hide in shells and become extremely sensitive to actions or words that might trigger their fears of abandonment or betrayal.

Depending on the individuals, the committed mistake(s) might help strengthen the bond between them and paint the guilty party as human, or it could damage the communication line between them and cause the individuals to drift apart. Relationships are fragile, trust is delicate, and we ought to handle them with responsibility and care. The solemnity of mistakes is enough to pierce through the intangible bonds that people create. You must remember that there are different types of people in the world - some are incredibly trusting and forgiving while others are more sensitive to mistakes.

Let’s take an entertaining example of what we have just discussed. We’re sure most of you have watched the 2017 movie “Wonder”, or at least have read the book–if you have, you might remember a climactic moment in the plot when Auggie comes to school dressed in a Ghostface mask and overhears his only friend Jack talk behind his back. Here, we see a textbook example of, what some may call, a severe mistake: betrayal. Auggie’s close friend Jack, who was one of the only people who treated Auggie nicely, was now insulting Auggie in front of his bullies–talk about backstabbing! After this incident, Auggie begins to avoid Jack and forms friendships with other people, albeit with some difficulty as he finds it difficult to trust others. This exemplifies the nature of mistakes quite perfectly: someone makes a mistake, another person is affected, relationships are damaged and broken or strengthened. Though this example originates from a kids’ movie, it can be applied to the real world.

Going off of our example from “Wonder”, how can severe mistakes affect others? When a mistake is committed, there are two parties involved: those affected by the mistake and those who made the mistake. Those affected by the mistake may feel a wave of emotions, be it confusion, anger, or shock: can I still trust this person? What did I do to deserve this? Why is this happening to me? Why? These complicated emotions often grow and manifest themselves in trust issues and strained relationships.

Conversely, though we don’t usually consider it, individuals who make mistakes are also affected by their actions. ‘Toxic’ people fail to realize their mistakes and refuse to acknowledge them, and are said to have ‘fragile egos’.  Fragile egos are an essential part of the equation–they are often the determining factor in how situations involving mistakes will play out. Open-minded people may quickly realize their mistakes and do whatever it takes to right the wrongs committed, whereas more guarded people tend to internalize their shortcomings and mistakes and either turn their emotions into destructive weapons or work to improve themselves. On the more destructive end of the spectrum, people with ‘fragile egos’ find it more difficult to accept the fact they made a mistake and instead resort to defense mechanisms, which mostly revolve around them denying their mistakes. These people fear lowering themselves in any way in front of others and are afraid of acknowledging their weaknesses and shortcomings. A young man who works in a huge company could deny the fact he made a blunder in an important report due to key investors.

One may differ in their reception of mistakes–you may choose to use your mistakes as an opportunity to change for the better or to remain stagnant in your behavior. It is ultimately your choice, to choose how to react. As for the people affected, we all react in different ways. Some of us may learn not to trust again, others are briefly shaken and bounce back quite easily; some wallow in sorrow, and some are so used to it they aren’t affected at all.

Another important question we believe is crucial to discuss is whether committing a mistake is the same as being wrong. Or, in other words, are you always 100% wrong when you make a mistake? Not exactly! When you make a mistake, it is usually because of a fault in your thought process or execution, some crucial piece of information that you’re missing – but that doesn’t mean you’re 100% wrong. An example of this could be when you meet someone for the first time and feel as though they have bad character; this person you’ve met might have made their share of mistakes, but are not entirely bad. This example might remind you of one of Jane Austen’s most beloved characters - Mr. Darcy and Miss Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice. No one is good or bad - almost everyone falls on a morally greyscale. In this case, you would be partially wrong in your judgment of the person you met, but since they have committed some mistakes as well, your judgment is not entirely wrong either.

Approaching the end of the dive, we want to highlight another crucial aspect of mistakes–we might even say it is quintessential in the perseverance and maintenance of a relationship. We all make mistakes and they undoubtedly have effects on the people around us. So, how can we fix or lessen the impact? How can we avoid damaging our relationships and maintain the trust and respect of people? The answer to that is apologies! Apologies are, quite frankly, one of the only ways we can redeem our actions and assure others that we will try our best to avoid repeating the same mistakes in the future. Referring back to the movie and book “Wonder”, we see how only after Jack apologizes to Auggie for his actions was he able to regain Auggie’s trust, setting their friendship on a road to recovery. Maintaining healthy relationships is crucial for us humans because ‘Man is a social animal’. We need human touch, reassurance, attention, and company to live happy and healthy lives; apologies play a vital part in that maintenance. When apologizing, make sure that you fully understand the severity of your actions and how it has impacted others. Only then can you truly admit to your wrongdoings and regain the trust you might have previously damaged or lost. Be reassured, however, that apologizing will not damage your reputation or others’ respect for you in any way; it will do quite the opposite. Just like how calcium strengthens broken bones, apologies also strengthen relationships.

We hope that this deep dive has sparked questions and thoughts in your head, be it the inquiry of whether you make more mistakes as you progress in life, or if you would want people to forgive you or hold you accountable for your mistakes. Ultimately, we hope that the topics we have discussed with you here have aided to shape your understanding of mistakes–a topic many of us sideline throughout our lives. Understanding our shortcomings is the key to growth; understanding mistakes will help us realize how we should approach unexpected and undesirable situations in our lives and how we can transform into better individuals.