Making New Mistakes

by Mark Votava


Last night I went to a neighbor’s house for a celebration of his fortieth birthday.  It was a wonderful celebration of friends and neighbors who share life together.  As I was sitting at this amazing table in their house, I was struck by all the love in the room.  I ended up seated by one of my friends in her sixties and I asked her jokingly about what wisdom she could give me through her six decades of life.

She said something that really struck me as profound.  She said, “Keep making new mistakes.”  This kind of sounded weird to me at first, but I think I got what she was saying.  We need to grow, risk, try, experiment and stumble through life as we live having the courage to keep making mistakes as we get older.

This shows that we are alive.  This shows that we are remaining open with a willingness to experience life in new ways as we live into various embodiments of love, compassion and humility.  “Keep making new mistakes.”  I like that!

When we “keep making new mistakes,” we live a life where the ideal of being perfect is seen for what it is.  This is a denial of our humanity.  It is not realistic to be perfect, and pushes us away from one another as we focus on our shared strengths rather than our share weaknesses.  Our shared weaknesses are the very foundation of relational connection with others and community.

Shared strengths bring with it a lot of competition, division and the placing of our ideals onto others causing resentment if things do not go our way.  Shared weaknesses bring vulnerability, honesty, brokenness, humility, empathy and solidarity.  These are the traits that we share in common with everyone: our limitations, weaknesses, brokenness and pain.  What if we created community around our share weaknesses giving ourselves permission to keep making new mistakes throughout life?

Maybe this is success: to make new mistakes throughout our entire lives. When we fear making mistakes is the day we start to slowly die before our time.  If we live in fear of making new mistakes, our dreams will die and our true selves will never be realized.

As I thought about this a little bit last night, I am astonished by how profound this insight to “keep making new mistakes” is to me.  What new mistakes will I have this day, this week, this month, this year, this moment?  That is the question to live my life in.  Where are the new mistakes that keep me alive and free to be myself?

I am not called to be someone else, but I am called to be me.  When I have the courage to keep making mistakes as I have more years behind me, I will slowly come to understand who I am and what life is about more.  Maybe making new mistakes will bring about what I am most longing for in life: shared life together with others.

How are you making new mistakes?