I don't remember exactly when it was that I made my first mistake but I'd reckon I wasn't terribly old.
For the sake of this momentary discussion, I'm omitting such things as waking up at an awkward hour when my dairy-farming father was trying to enjoy one of his few hours of regular sleep.
Might as well skip forward a few months and also exclude those first few efforts at putting on my own shoes and getting right and left mixed up. Actually, it probably wasn't so much a matter of getting them mixed up as it was not having quite figured out the subtle differences between the two.
Nowadays, of course, it seems a lot simpler to see at least some of the differences between right and left, what with all the hollering folks do about those two.
Frankly, I'm still pretty happy with being able to get Shoe One and Shoe Two on their respective sides of the Great Divide.
Not only can I not remember that first mistake, I also can't remember exactly when it was that I learned what to do about it.
Whether it struck me that way at the time or not, the proper response seems remarkably simple to me now: admit it, apologize for it, make it right — if you can —and move on.
Over the past several decades, I've made so many mistakes that I've gotten pretty darn good at that admitting and apologizing thing.
Now, it was never my ambition to become good at it, just seemed inevitable given the excessive degree of humanity which manifested itself in me.
In spite of that, or maybe because of it, I have to admit being more than a little puzzled at the lack of skill I have seen in a few other people.
Maybe it's the simplicity of it that makes it so confoundably hard for some folks to follow the process.
They can squirm around, stare at the ground and the sky at the same time, find 14 other folks to blame and twice that many excuses.
Or they've just got some slimy slick way of making it sound like there really wasn't a mistake, or else we're just too stupid to comprehend the true nature of the situation.
"I assure you that a few billion gallons of crude oil actually has a beneficial effect on the aquatic environment … if only you were actually capable of truly understanding the science involved."
Some interchange on whether the foundation of that sort of response is due to pride or prejudice or psychiatric impairment might make for a few hours of interesting discussion in the lobbies and cubbyholes of some psychological society meeting somewhere.
I'd guess there'd be at least as many different opinions as there are people present. Introduce particular libations into the equation and the number of expressed opinions would likely increase since what some people claim they believe seems to vary with the level of intoxication, err, inebriation.
Regardless of the explanations and modes of persuasion, here's my more or less bottom line on the whole making and taking ownership on mistakes: Sincere apologies have an almost miraculous power. They help release us and those we have wronged from the chains of bad memory and bad experience through that divine process of forgiveness.
We don't have to receive an apology in order to forgive someone else. We can show ourselves the kindness of liberation even without an admission of guilt or request for mercy.
But for most of us, a sincere apology sure makes the forgiving easier.
Doc Arnett has been a professional educator and bi-vocational minister for more than 40 years. He currently pastors the Community Church of South Haven.