For a variety of reasons, the following from a post over at Yoga Journeys struck me:
One of the hats I wear is that of ESL teacher. Last week in class, my students were struggling with a difficult listening exercise, and I found myself saying I give you permission to be wrong. I wonder if that shifted anyone's world the way it shifted mine. I give you permission to be wrong. How often do we explicitly receive or grant ourselves this permission? It's true that we are often told that it is OK to make mistakes as long as we learn from them, but in fact I think the overarching lesson of our society is that to be wrong is a terrible thing.
Giving yourself permission to be wrong is the first step down a path to unknown discoveries. It is the first step to learning, exploring, discovering and growing as a person. By not only walking that path fearlessly but also explicitly giving others the permission to be wrong, we can give the world a great gift.
Even after several years of Zen practice and even longer with yoga practice, I still get hooked pretty easily by mistakes. Sure, I think I can say that little mistakes, like bowing at the wrong time or forgetting to make enough copies at work, don't get to me too much anymore. But I sometimes find myself mired in fear of larger mistakes, larger wrongs that might occur. Being uninsured brings up a lot of this. There's the mistake of staying put in a job that doesn't offer heath insurance in the first place. And the mistake of being in the wrong place or doing the wrong thing and getting injured. And also the mistake of not getting some kind of medical help and getting sicker in the process. This is just one set of examples of potential trouble spots in life - difficult to "correct" mistakes and wrongs that society forgives poorly, if at all.
When I'm trapped in this kind of mindset, life is heavy and miserable. And I become more passive, more willing to believe all the bullshit our culture puts out about being self-sufficient and in control of your life at all times. People who know me know that when it comes to finances, and trying to be self-sufficient with not a lot, I'm near the top of the class. And yet, for all my frugalness, I'm still one step away from bankruptcy and yet another "burden" to the "taxpayers." The reality of that there's no way to be fully self-sufficient precisely because we don't live in a vacuum. In addition, there's no way to go through life without mistakes, including maybe some big ones that make things messy.
However, even knowing that, I still sometimes have a hard time giving myself permission to let go, live 100% alive, and maybe screw up a few things in the process. And why is that? Partly because I still can be a mirror of our wider society, terribly unforgiving, and relentlessly striving for perfection at the cost of my wellbeing.
I also find though that there's a class element to all of this. If you are a poor person, perpetually on the edge - your big mistakes easily can be your undoing. In fact, over the course of my lifetime, a sizable chunk of the middle class now hovers just above those at the bottom economically, and we, too, now experience the real perils that mistakes can bring. You put your retirement money in the wrong mutual fund? Tough shit! No retirement for you. You son got pneumonia and had to stay in the hospital and now the insurance company denies you coverage? Don't you fucking dare ask the taxpayers to bail your ass out. (Never mind that you are a taxpayer, too.)
Actually, this post is starting to piss me off. When you reflect on it, the lack of compassion and genuine concern and support for others in this country can be so astounding that you wonder how the hell we've made it this far in one piece. And I sometimes mirror this lack of compassion, pick your self up by your bootstraps mentality, mostly towards myself, which makes it all the more painful.
"By not only walking that path fearlessly but also explicitly giving others the permission to be wrong, we can give the world a great gift." I think we have to learn simultaneously step into our fears about being wrong, and making mistakes, and we have to figure out ways to wear out of some of this collective shame and blame in our society. How? I don't know exactly. This is where we have to start.