There are two kinds of mistakes in life, Responsible or Irresponsible.
The focus tends to be on (and should) the BIG irresponsible ones like adultery. misguided relationships or bad parenting but there are a host of others that can cause just as much misery including family, career, financial or lack of common sense.
A Responsible mistake = One has thought through the consequences of an action beforehand; knows the worst possible outcome and is willing to live with the decision. One's life still can be damaged severely but at least there was serious thought and contemplation about the action. This kind of mistake can always be respected.
An Irresponsible mistake = An action where one just "throws caution to the wind" and gets moved by the emotion of the situation without any regard to the consequences. Acting without thought. People do get lucky and survive this mistake (as you will see in # 2 below) but invariably lives get damaged when irresponsibility rears its ugly head.
Below are 5 examples to ponder:
1) A Family Man's Demise (name has been changed)
Bob is married with two children and has a decent marriage. They have their issues like most couples and his wife is a good woman. Bob is tempted by a colleague at work that is flirting with him and the woman knows he is married. She has no college degree and no real ambition (unlike his wife) although she is very attractive. Bob begins an affair and enjoys the excitement and passion; something that was lacking in his marriage.
During the affair, Bob has a chance to advance his career but would need to move the family out of town. His wife doesn't support him as she doesn't want to move. Bob wants this job but lets the opportunity pass by which obviously pleases his wife. Not long after, Bob's wife mysteriously finds out about this new woman. How? The woman subtly and secretly informs his wife and a messy divorce follows.
Bob never lives with his family under the same roof again. Along with paying hefty alimony, he lives with the mistress as his options are limited. Bob is rarely happy in the world he created and his kids grow up with another man after his wife remarries.
Did Bob make a responsible or irresponsible mistake? Irresponsible. Bob never considered the fact that this woman had no redeeming qualities except looks and was out for her own needs. He only saw the physical and let emotion rule his decision.
A responsible mistake could have been to "nip the temptation in the bud" by telling his wife soon after the affair began so that they could make decisions together based on what was best for the family. A real man would have confronted his wife BEFORE acting on the temptation that wrecked his family's life.
Consequences should be seriously considered if one is going to take a bite from the fruit of temptation. (See my "Temptation - Don't Fall for It" article in the April section)
2) Lucky to Escape (a different friend)
After finally ending an 8 year relationship, he was a single man again with a broken heart. Like so many in this position, he wanted immediate comfort and acted irresponsibly with his "on the rebound" prowl. Unfortunately, he found comfort in a woman who wanted a baby and quickly became pregnant. He had no intention of being with this woman. Miserable was now his label and the inevitable child support added additional stress.
During this akward situation, his "rebound" lady had a miscarriage. While it is sad to lose any baby, this person was lucky to escape from a relationship that was doomed from the beginning. His irresponsible mistake almost cost him a lifetime of certain pain. He lucked out and dodged the bullet from his irresponsibility.
I started with these true life scenarios as I have seen lives shattered and dreams evaporated because of irresponsible actions in marriage and relationships like the aforementioned. It is cowardly to give into temptations of the flesh or the misguided comfort of another person when feeling despondent, unhappy or recovering from a broken heart. In those instances, one must have the courage to confront a partner and deal with issues directly, think about potential damages to one's family or take a little time to be alone and work on improving as a person so as to not go from one bad situation to another.
3) Bad Parenting
Over the past few years, the actions of some parents have left me baffled. I have seen parents act irresponsibly by:
A) Feeding a toddler potato chips and similar types of food for dinner
B) Putting their own careers ahead of their children - Parents who for financial reasons MUST work 12 hours a day to make ends meet for the family are not the subject in this case. I am a referring to parents who choose to work 12 or more hours daily and leave their children in the care of a babysitter. Why have children if you never see them?
C) Having affairs - Kids tend to grow up admiring and wanting to be like their parents. What is admirable about adultery and the disrespect of family that results from it?
D) Feeding children whenever it is convenient and with whatever food is available.
E) Having no discipline our boundaries with their children.
As a parent, I realize that raising a child can be difficult but I cannot respect those who do not put their children and family first and raise them in the best way they know how.
I met a precious toddler in Sweden that seems to be one of the unhappiest kids (in demeanour and actions) I have come across. It is not a coincidence that the parents are hardly around, don't feed the child properly and provide the child with sleep patterns that suit their lifestyle. When I tell people about the actions of these parents, they gasp in disbelief. How can parents be so cruel is another reaction! What is even more puzzling is that the couple are educated people who were raised fairly well.
There is no golden rule to raising kids properly but if a parent engages in reckless activity like above or puts career/money ahead of the family or simply doesn't put in the hard effort it takes to raise successful children, they are making an irresponsible mistake.
Responsible mistakes like handling a school situation in the wrong manner, talking to a child about life's temptations too lightly, punishing a child too harshly or not following up on something that your child asked you to do can always be accepted and improved upon in the future. Parents will make these and other types mistakes and that is okay as long as the effort is made daily to raise your child in a loving, disciplined and productive way.
4) Family Dysfunction ( My mother and her 2 sisters)
My mother and her two sisters avoided associating or communicating with one another for years. The reasons for them not talking were petty and not as important as the fact that they missed out on what could have been precious years of loving sisterhood.
I am glad to report that they have put aside their minor differences and are now sisters once again. They have experienced more happiness in the last two years than they did in the last twenty! My mother and aunts are interesting, fun and loving people so it warms my heart to see the sisters in sync with each other.
It is an irresponsible mistake to disregard family for petty and selfish reasons (i.e. jealousy) as not only do the adults miss out on special moments but they make it difficult or impossible for the children of those estranged to develop an strong bond with family. In addition, when the inevitable tough times touch our lives, there is typically no better comfort than the love of a supportive family. I realize that some family members are evil and never have the best interests of family in their heart and those types should be avoided at all costs. No family member is worth the time of day if they don't have warm and loving intentions in their soul.
5) Fight for your Career
I have counseled and talked with people who have been unjustly maligned at work including some that have eventually been fired simply because they were not liked or were a competitive threat to a colleague. In all of these situations (except one), the individuals walked away quietly without saying a word and had their careers pushed back or reputations damaged. In other words, they lacked the toughness to stand up to obvious and often unethical wrongdoing which is an irresponsible mistake.
One friend's story was hard to swallow as he spent five very good years at a Fortune 500 company. His reviews were stellar and he worked efficiently. Soon after, a new boss arrived and made the environment stressful despite my friend's good reputation and proven success. This made it almost impossible for him to succeed especially when the boss subtly encouraged him to quit. He was dumbfounded as he never experienced such a mean and competitive person. Instead of fighting for his good name and the results he had produced, he walked away. The boss's mission was accomplished.
What my friend could have done was talk with Human Resources or someone he trusted in the organization to at a minimum tell his side of the story so as to not have his previous five years go down the drain. He was afraid to do anything for fear of being labeled a complainer. His career was never at the same height again. He was irresponsible at a when he needed to be responsible as he had done nothing wrong to cause this unfair treatment.
The one who DID NOT walk away, fought similar circumstances and ended up saving his good name and continued to do well in his company although he did eventually leave to bigger and better opportunities. He was not afraid to speak up when his well earned success and reputation were at stake. Today, he has a wonderful job that may have been unavailable if he didn't fight to preserve his career.
The workplace is not an area for weak minded or thin skinned individuals. If you are wronged by someone unjustly, you should fight back because if you don't, it is you who will suffer the most.
Additional areas for responsible or irresponsible choices fall in categories such as:
-- Drugs - Nothing responsible results from this.
-- Drinking - In moderation is responsible but driving after drinking is irresponsible.
-- Theft - Grossly irresponsible and can land one in jail.
-- The Wrong Crowd - Whether a teenager or adult, letting friends into your life who do not have your best interests in mind is irresponsible.
-- Disrespecting Values Taught - If you are raised properly by good parents, it is irresponsible to not follow the teachings of those values.
-- Moving Abroad on Emotion - I have seen people move to Sweden (for love and other reasons) while never considering how it would be to live in a foreign county. It is irresponsible to not do your homework on a potential new culture if you want to make a productive life there.
-- Buying a house - As we see from the housing crises in the USA, many were irresponsible in purchasing homes they could not afford. To live above your means is irresponsible.
-- Financial Laziness - Many have good intentions when saving for a rainy day or retirement but often DO NOT watch those investments closely and consequently lose significant amounts of money. A good rule is to look at your financial investments at least once a week. I watch mine daily. It can take as little as 5 minutes.
-- A Lack of Common Sense - A friend was leaving a restaurant and rushing to his car. Instead of staying on the well lit main street, he decided to use an unknown and dark alley. He was robbed and beaten up but was not hurt too badly. Common sense is often adrift when people don't think or are rushed. Woman in particular must always be careful as many outside attacks or rapes occur when the victim is alone or in a dark area.
-- Repeating an Unproductive Pattern - If you are doing the same things over and over again whether it be love, work, friends, etc and your life is not progressing, it is irresponsible to not find a way to change your pattern. (Review my April article, "Is your Pattern working?")
-- Wasteful Relationships - It is irresponsible to waste one day in a relationship that is not working. An acquaintance in New York City had two long term boyfriends and both ended unfavorably. If she could turn back time, I wonder if she would have left either relationship earlier? Her prospects are now dwindling as she is single and approaching 40. Why do so many hang on to the comfort of a relationship when they know in their heart that the future holds zero promise for them? Not only is time wasted but you lose an invaluable opportunity to find someone who could actually make you happy.
It is particularly hard for our youth to be responsible as temptations come at them from all angles especially in an Internet world. That is why responsible adults must be diligent in teaching their own children properly as well as having a watchful eye on others even if it is just mentoring one misguided youngster. We must do our part to help our youth bloom into confident, giving and responsible adults.
The key with mistakes is to err on the side of responsibility and not irresponsibility. To do it well requires THINKING before any action and "Taking the emotion out of it" (See July article on this subject) with important decisions. It is crucial to take risks throughout life as it makes for a more well-rounded and interesting experience but to "role the dice" with our actions is irresponsible and leads most people down an unenviable road.
I have made my share of mistakes but the the overwhelming majority have been responsible. Since the age of 9 when I found my basketball talent, I did everything in my power to remain in a responsible atmosphere as I knew basketball could take me a long way! Thankfully, my mistakes were never a threat to derail my sport, career, family or life dreams. I have a wonderful life because of my wise actions.
Stay away from irresponsible mistakes or be prepared for consequences you may have never imagined.
If you embrace responsibility, there is little that will stand in your path to the life you desire.
Happy Gswede Sunday!