The fear of making a mistake is common. It is the result of unrealistic perfectionistic thinking; like the notion that making mistakes will lead to some terrible consequence, or that making mistakes is a sign of weakness or incompetence.
The fear of making mistakes is insidious. It can be almost unfaithful because it undermines us, and those about us.
The fear of making mistakes burns us with anxiety. Our connection to those present is muted, and we become distracted by a nervous hesitancy.
The fear of making a mistake muffles the prophetic voice. Instead, our unique ‘calling’ becomes shrouded in doubt.
The fear of making mistakes dulls our brilliant presence. Out goes our quiet confidence; our creativity limited and our vibrancy subdued.
Our life should not be a cautious journey to Peter’s gates, sidestepping blunders and slipping around fault… but rather to skid in sideways– bruised, disorderly, and crying out with a surprising vitality, “by the grace of God come I “!!
Unless we let go this fear of making a mistake, an even more deceptive fear takes root. We eventually fall into a shame based conviction that our life is nothing but the result of mistakes we once made.
This guilt driven life sentence can unfortunately find validation in our Christian churches. For example, the traditional understanding of the biblical story of Adam and Eve is that we have all been sentenced to a life of suffering- cast eternally outside of perfect paradise because they chose to eat an apple from a tree they were warned not to eat from.
This sin burdened theology is not so subtly reinforced in the liturgy of my own tradition, when, for example, in the ‘Prayer of Humble Access’ found in the Book of Common Prayer we are asked to recite “O merciful Lord… We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table.“
Granted, some find a modest beauty and a deeply respectful significance in such stories and liturgy. For them the words reinforce God as being merciful; whose grace carries them through each day. Unfortunately, many don’t interpret it this way.
There is a fine line separating humility from humiliating. And when the balance is not carefully managed, many recoil from the implied guilt.
Regrettably too, many of the ‘devoutly religious’, who have been overly stewed in self-effacing theology, feel the chronic need to censure and chastise: projecting their own guilty fears on others. Consequently, many good folk suffer, or have suffered, their shaming manner. And we can reasonably assume many have left the Church, and refused to return, because of it.
Dignity returns and confidence matures as we risk making mistakes. And our heavy hearts lighten as we let go the belief that the life we lead is the result of mistakes we, or others before us, made.
As I see it, God’s inspired creativity is felt most assuredly in those who have learned to goof bravely. And the abundant joy of a meaningful life is the gift returned to those who fear not their own imperfection, and who trust that God (or life) rewards those who risk for the sake of the greater good.
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.