Friday, September 19, 2008

Mistakes, Lies & Justifications

"A great nation is like a great man:
When he makes a mistake, he realizes it.
Having realized it, he admits it.
Having admitted it, he corrects it.
He considers those who point out his faults as his most benevolent teachers." - Lao Tzu
To err is human, and so is our tendency to hide mistakes. When we commit mistakes that are immoral or harmful, we often try to hide them, or lie about them - this is usually an attempt to avoid getting into trouble with our parents, partners, teachers, bosses, and even followers. Sometimes we even defend our actions publicly, just to save our face. The worst situation, however, is when we justify our mistakes, not just to the outside world but to ourselves. Self-justification causes the biggest harm, because we become oblivious of our own mistakes. By not realizing our mistakes, we lose all opportunities to learn from the mistakes we committed; not just that, we often escalate our commitment into those erroneous courses of action. The net result is that we turn into "unconscious hypocrites" - we talk about the mistakes which others commit but fail to realize the exact similar ones that we are committing ourselves.


  1. hi Paresh,
    You have written only on the first part of the saying' "To err is human"; the other part says "To forgive divine".
    I think people justify their mistakes by taking course to this second part of the saying, they forgive themselves as it is divine!!!

  2. Hi Wahi, I think that is an interesting perspective. However, I have a differing view. Self-justification surely allows us to not blame ourselves for the mistakes that we did, but I wouldn't equate self-justification with forgiveness. That's because, forgiveness - the way I understand it - presupposes acceptance of guilt; I can only forgive the guilty, not the innocent. When I self-justify I don't consider myself guilty, and so obviate the need to forgive. That said, I believe accepting and forgiving is a much more psychologically healthy way to cope with our mistakes than self-justification.