The way I see it there are two ways to react to the consequences of mistakes we’ve made:
1. Deny, blame others, cover up, and hope nobody finds out.
2. Own up and take responsibility for the consequences.
Which is the right way?
If you are reading this, there’s a pretty good chance you are a Scout, and I know that you know the right answer.
When I first joined my Scout Troop, I was impressed by a Patrol Leader who had a cool, laid-back personality…
One campout, though, the older Scouts confronted him about problems his Patrol had caused. He pointed the blame at everyone else, but I knew he was personally responsible for part of the mess. When the Senior Patrol Leader pressed him to take responsibility, he got that much louder trying to prove his own innocence.
When I heard him trying to deny responsibility, I lost respect for this Patrol Leader.
He acted like everything was cool…
But when faced with a problem, he blamed others so he could keep up his ‘cool’ act.
When I thought more about this, I realized that I did this quite a bit myself. When I made a mistake, my gut reaction was covering it up as quickly as possible and denying any responsibility. We all do this don’t we? Everyone is concerned with their image and what other people think of them.
I’m guessing I’m not the only one who’s daydreamed about being able to travel back in time and do things differently. It’s a cool concept, but I don’t think anyone’s going to invent a time-machine anytime soon.
We have to understand that the decisions we make, both good and bad, permanently change the future – we can’t go back and change them.
How you deal with the consequences of a bad decision is another decision that has it’s own consequences. Those consequences set the stage for your next decision, then the next… you get the idea, right? Start right now by making the right decision.
Yeah, it’s not fun saying you screwed up, but the alternative (trying to cover it up or pushing the blame off on someone else) is even worse. Scouts have more character than that. Even though it’s hard to do, if you’re honest with yourself and with others you’ll be happier for it in the long run.
Own your mistakes. If you’re wrong, admit it.
Owning your mistakes is accepting the consequences. Whether we get punished in some way or just get the negative natural consequences that come from our mistakes, we’ve got to take it straight. I know this has been really hard for me at times. I’ll rationalize that my mistake wasn’t *that* bad, and that I don’t deserve whatever consequences I’m getting.
We can’t choose the consequences, we take them as they come. We can choose whether to complain about them or just accept them and move on.
I’ve found it better not to dwell too much on the past. What’s done is done, I’ll try to learn from it and focus on what’s ahead.
We can’t travel back in time and change our decisions. But by accepting the consequences and (more importantly) learning from our mistakes we can change the future!
So many people are caught in repeating their mistakes over and over. Don’t let that happen to you! Be a Scout! Shoot for a higher standard!
The first step to owning up is something universally known, but rarely practiced.
When I was really young, my parents taught me to say “I’m sorry” when I did something wrong. That’s basic etiquette everyone knows – but true, genuine, sincere apologies are rare.
A sincere apology isn’t: “I’m sorry I got caught.”
Everyone is sorry when they get caught and have to face the consequences of a bad decision; that’s a given. The spirit of a true apology is: “I’m sorry my mistake ended up hurting others.”
A simple, genuine apology is really hard to say. I know I always try to bundle it with an excuse of some kind: “I’m really sorry, but I was tired when I said that.” or “I’m sorry I reacted that way, but he was the one who started it.” or “I’m sorry I didn’t clean that up, I got distracted by one of the guys.”
It’s so easy to throw that little excuse in there. But in reality, that’s self-centered thinking.
We should be making an apology because whatever we said or did let someone else down. Why it happened or who else might share the blame shouldn’t even enter into it.
If you really only care about yourself, it will show in the way you face the consequences of a bad decision. If you want to be a leader and serve others, it will show in the way you face the consequences of a bad decision.
I used to be really bad at taking responsibility for my mistakes, but as I’ve gotten older and gained more experience in leadership, I’ve become a little less self-centered. It’s a constant effort, though: one that I’ll be working on this week. I hope you do too!
Whenever you make a mistake, take responsibility!
Determine to learn from it and never do it again. Finally, think about who was affected by this mistake and apologize to them. It won’t be easy, but try to make it into a habit. It will make you a better leader and a better person.