When is a Mistake Not a Mistake?

A Dharma talk by Lama D.
Today I would like to discuss the different types of mistakes, the importance of learning from mistakes, and how to avoid them.

In the world, everybody can make a mistake. To answer the question “When is a mistake not a mistake?”, first we have to ask: “What is a mistake?” The dictionary definition of “mistake” is “an act or judgement that is misguided or wrong.” A mistake is something we do that comes from misunderstanding and that causes harm.

Why Do We Make Mistakes?
Mistakes come from incomplete thinking, selfishness, and immaturity. When we don’t consider the results of our actions in advance, that is incomplete thinking. When we think of ourselves only, that is being self-centered. Many mistakes happen when we are young and immature. We lack experience. Sometimes mistakes happen because there are unexpected obstacles. Sometimes a situation may not be suitable to you, or you misinterpret it. Mistakes happen when we are careless.

What’s an “Honest Mistake”?
An honest mistake is a foolish mistake that can usually be forgiven easily. Perhaps we do something when we are very young, and when we realize the negative results of our actions we feel sorry. An honest mistake is something done carelessly without malice. It comes from immaturity or a lack of experience.

Mistakes Are Our Best Teacher
When we are young, we have limited experience. We need to practice and try everything once. This is a very important form of education. As we gain experience, we can test our actions again and again, to learn what brings the best results for everyone. In general, society will forgive an “honest mistake”, even though it may cause harm. When we have education and knowledge, we can analyze the situations, see a pattern, research thoroughly. The key is to know it is your responsibility to receive feedback by yourself
and to learn from it.

Sean Connery once called his James Bond movies a “mistake”. Yet he went on to become one of the greatest actors of our time. The maturity and wisdom he brought to his later roles was due to experience and learning at every step. He was even knighted by the Queen of England. Maybe it was a lifetime of learning and wasn’t a “mistake” at all.

Acknowledge Your Mistakes
Intelligence means you can see your mistakes and admit them. People who fail in life often do so because they cannot admit their mistakes. Instead, they see fault in others or blame their failure on factors beyond their control. On the other hand, people who succeed can admit their mistakes. In addition, they carefully consider how to avoid repeating those mistakes in the future.

One or Two Mistakes is Enough
Everybody can make a mistake because we are human. We learn through our mistakes. After we make a mistake once, we must analyze what happened and see why it was negative. If we make the same mistake twice, we can recognize a pattern and be sure not to repeat the action again. Twice should be enough to learn. Mistakes happen because you didn’t think it over beforehand.

For example, some people tend to be very short-tempered, and one word sets them off. They start to fight. The first time this happens, it is OK, because we are human, and no one will take offense. However if you repeat this over and over every time something triggers your anger, you are a stupid moron. Fighting is a mistaken way of solving a problem. There’s always a way to relax, take a breath, talk, think it over, and solve the problem without fighting. A quiet discussion can resolve it much better. Everyone can learn to cooperate.

A Mistake that Happens Over and Over is Worse Than a Mistake. It’s a Serious Offense.
With maturity comes a knowledge of what is right and wrong. We learn from experience what actions bring benefit to everybody, and what causes harm. After a few years of practice, there’s no excuse for making mistakes anymore. Repeated mistakes become a serious problem. Either the misguided action is planned and premeditated, or the person has no intelligence to learn. This is a serious offense.

What’s a Pattern of Intentional Mistakes?
A pattern of planned, intentional actions that cause harm are no longer a mistake. They are serious wrongdoings that can be considered an immoral act, a transgression against goodness. Yet we see this often in our society. Some people grow old and wise with experience. Other people get older and stay stupid and thick and do not consider the consequences of their actions. If you live in a blind state of ignorance, stupidity or selfishness, you can cause great harm to many people.

How Can We Avoid Making Mistakes?
We want smooth success in our actions, and we want the results to bring happiness to everyone. When a mistake happens, you must think it over and over. Think carefully and be aware of patterns, the similarities between one situation and another. Use your mind. So with just one mistake, you can learn to avoid many types of problems and steer clear of hundreds of future mistakes. This is intelligence. Learn what is good and what is bad, so that your actions benefit everybody, and nobody is left out of the circle.

Are You Learning from Your Mistakes?
When you are young, you will make mistakes. This is understandable. You must remember to think over carefully before you act. Consider the ramifications and the interrelated outcomes of your actions upon everything – the people, the earth, plants, and animals. You gain experience and wisdom. After doing something, observe carefully the consequences. Think it over and notice what is beneficial and what is not, so that you can bring long-term benefit to all and continue to learn your whole life long. If you learn from your mistakes, you will grow old, wise and happy. Your actions will bring joy to all people.

In conclusion, I will ask YOU the question: “When is a Mistake Not a Mistake?”
To me, the answer is: It’s not a mistake when you are young and inexperienced when you were trying to do good for everyone. That is hardly a mistake, and it can be forgiven. However, if you are already older and you do repeated harmful actions, then your mistake is worse than a mistake. It is a serious error. Everything comes back to you in this world. Your repeated mistakes are misguided wrongs against nature and society, and the consequences of your actions will circle back to you with a sting, I guarantee. Thank you.


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