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Tim Jackins, at the Southern USA Teachers’ and Leaders’ Workshop, November 2013

I wish to apologize for a phrase I used today. It was a mistake. It was my mistake, and I apologize for it.

That’s what has to happen when we make mistakes. We have to face them and apologize for them. We don’t have to rationalize them in order to justify them. We don’t even have to feel bad about them—but we probably will.

We do need to face the fact that we make mistakes. You make mistakes. I make mistakes. It’s all right. It’s part of our going forward. We have to look at them, see what they are, get them in our mind, discharge on whatever is connected to them so that we are less likely to make them again, and then go forward. If we don’t do this, if we are not able to recognize and apologize for a mistake, no one can be clear about how well we actually think and what we can do.

It’s important to remember that we are going to make mistakes no matter what we try to do, but especially if we try to go against oppression in any way at all. We can’t think well consistently enough not to make some mistakes, and we have to go forward and not wait to be perfect. We all need to work on this and on all the feelings that come up around it.

If we make a mistake, most of us abandon the field, go off to the side, feel bad, and don’t do anything. That’s useless. We can start by working on what happened to us when we made mistakes as children. Most of us were belittled, humiliated, punished. There was no understanding. Our mistakes restimulated the people around us who had been treated even worse when they made one.

We need to figure out how to work on this material.* We need to be able to look at what we do and understand that it’s not going to be perfect, ever. It isn’t supposed to be, and it doesn’t need to be for us to make progress.

We make efforts going forward, and when we stumble, we get to look at it, say it out loud, counsel on it, and go on from there. It is the unacknowledged mistakes that confuse us, and it’s the distresses from how we were treated when we made mistakes that make it so hard for us to face the fact that we do. So I apologize.

(A mini-session on “the mistake we hope we never make because we couldn’t possibly apologize for it—or anything in that area”)

Let’s go out there and make mistakes. It’s part of being alive. We need to be out where we make mistakes, or we are not close enough to the challenges we need to be facing.

* “Material” means distress.

Last modified: 2020-07-01 09:06:00+00