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Guest column | Mary Partington

Owning up to our mistakes is essential for being civilized

"I am so sorry."

It was all I could say. I had just realized I committed a faux pas, a social blunder and a major gaffe. I received a written invitation to a brunch and when I saw my hostess I told her I would be there.

Unfortunately, I have several calendars, one by my desktop, one in the kitchen and one in my purse. Browsing through the one by my desktop I realized I had committed to be in Orlando on the same date as the brunch. I tried to change the date for Orlando, but I could not. I left the brunch invitation on my desk to call with my regrets.

I didn't. The day of the brunch arrived, and I was off to Orlando. They waited for me at the brunch because I had failed to call the hostess. A friend called to see if I was ill since I had not come the brunch.

I was speechless when I realized my error. How could I make amends?

I called the hostess, who I hoped was still a friend, and left my apologies on her voice mail. I know that I needed to speak to her face to face, but I did not want to do that without a gift in my hands. She was gracious and accepted my sincere apology. But I still feel awful.

How many mistakes do we make in one day? If you are like me there is not enough room on this paper to list them all. There are the little mistakes, not tightening the cap on a bottle of salad dressing and the next person shakes it vigorously.

Sometimes I leave something out of a recipe and realize it just as I am putting it on the table for guests. Then there are the medium mistakes. Like going to store for an item, spending $100 and forgetting to buy the one item I went for.

When I review my colossal mistakes — one really sticks with me. Newly married, with my husband finishing his degree program, I shut off the alarm on the day he had a very important final exam. It caused us to spend another semester in school because the professor would not accept the excuse that his wife had turned off the alarm. We are still married, but it was very quiet in the apartment for a long time.

Recently a major mistake was made in regards to a government official. A part of speech was taken out of context and Shirley Sherrod was asked to resign from the U.S. Department of Agriculture without giving the matter a full review. When the full speech was read, she was offered another job. Mistakes were made and then the mistakes were compounded by a rush to judgment.

There have been monumental news stories lately by supposedly mistake-free corporations and their products. Toyota and Apple come to mind. Our financial institutions' mistakes have almost caused our economy to collapse. The guardians of these companies were shocked by the errors and the companies took great pains to avoid admitting their guilt.

I have grown fatigued by the mistakes of men and women in the field of sports. When grown men and women go to prison for animal abuse or a myriad of other errors, I am not shocked I am disgusted. When sports heroes admit to drug use to build their careers, I am saddened.

Recently a young woman was found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of a romantic rival. If she had not taken a knife with her, she would be walking free. If we could just see the future we could avoid a tragedy. It is up to us to avoid the first mistake.

When I was in grade school we were taught that there are two types of sins — venial and mortal sins. The venial sins were if you ate meat on Friday because you forgot it was Friday. A mortal sin was one you knew was very bad and you did it any way.

I think the same goes for mistakes. There are the blunders that just happen because you were not paying attention, in a hurry or tired. Then there are the major errors that we commit even though we know they are wrong.

I am so sorry I failed to call my friend. I know I will make many more mistakes because it is just human nature. I just hope my future mistakes fall into the forgivable category.

Mary Partington lives in New Port Richey.

Owning up to our mistakes is essential for being civilized 09/01/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 1, 2010 4:50pm]
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