Tuesday, May 17, 2011


The following two questions were submitted anonymously using the form on the right.

: How is a person supposed to deal with embarrassment with a mistake that person makes but cant stop and is constantly getting embarrassed by what they did every time that person mentions it or brings it up?

A: I'll repeat it the way I remember hearing from someone I look up to and respect. People tend to think that mistakes are a bad thing. But that's not true. Mistakes are only bad if you don't learn from them. Mistakes are actually good - if you take a lesson from whatever you did and use it to change or grow in the future or to make sure that specific situation doesn't happen again.

For example, if you were trying to bake a cake while you were on the phone with a friend and you skipped out one ingredient, you may not be happy with the results of that cake because your forgot to put in the sugar (!) but this was a mistake that you will make sure not to repeat. If you learn from this experience and decide not to talk on the phone again when you are baking because it disturbs your concentration and then your cake wont come out good, then that mistake is a good thing! You took a lesson from it and from now on, your cakes will come out delicious because you will be able to focus on what you are doing without getting distracted!

The first thing you need to do is see if you can take a practical lesson from whatever happened and make sure you can do something to be more careful in the future.

If a friend or family member keeps reminding you about the incident and that makes you embarrassed, try to talk it over with her. Tell her straight out: it makes me uncomfortable when you constantly bring up that mistake I made. I know I should have been more careful and I botched up the cake and we didn't have dessert for shabbos but next time I will make sure I am not distracted by other things and then it will work out perfectly!

It is very important to be able to communicate openly about how you feel about certain things to those who are close to you so that they do not hurt your feelings by reminding you about past mistakes.

I know the example I gave is a petty one but I hope you can apply it to the mistake you made and work it out in a way that makes both you and the one who reminds you about it happy at the end of the conversation.

If the mistake you made is something wrong morally, ethically or is a bad deed - an aveira, you need to go one step further. You will need to do teshuva - verbalize the aveira, sincerely feel bad about what you did, and take upon yourself to work on that action so that you don't do it again. Chaya Sara wrote a great post a while back called how to do teshuva.

And don't think teshuva is only for Elul, it can and should be done as close as possible to the time the aveira was done - this way you are showing Hashem that you really feel bad about what you did and you sincerely want to change for the better! And then when Elul comes around, you'll have less things to fix!

* * *

: How should we react when we find out that a parent made big mistakes?

A: Know that parents are also human beings. All people make mistakes. It says that there is no such thing as a person who never erred or who never sinned (I'm not sure about the exact wording but it's something like Ein tzaddik ba'aretz asher ya'aseh tov v'lo yecheteh.)
Your parents are normal - and just like everyone else in the world they made a mistake.

Depending on what happened next and the effect of their mistake, you may want to find a way to speak to them respectfully about it or get someone to be a go-between to help find a way to fix it.

I don't know what you mean by big mistakes so I can't say much more.

The only thing I have to add is that whatever the thing is that your parent did that looks wrong in your eyes should not diminish your respect for them. You may not know their full thought process behind what they did, they may have expected different results based on the decision they made, but know that parents always want to do whatever is best for their children - and THAT is enough of a reason to continue to love and respect them.
Their emotions may get in the way of their decisions, they may have done something you view as wrong but you cannot know everything they were thinking when they did whatever they did.

Continue appreciating all the good things your parents do for you and most importantly, remember that they are human beings too and you cannot expect perfection from anyone.

I hope this helps both of you. I would really appreciate if the person/people who asked these two questions would comment and let me know if this helped you and if you still have any thoughts or questions about what I wrote.


  1. Great questions and great answers!

  2. I love the first question, because I have the same issue. Yet, when I have tried talking it over with the person-they just don't seem to care. Now what? I am frustrated!

  3. Anon-what do you mean they don't seem to care? They don't seem to care about your feelings? About reminding you about the mistake? Or something else completely...?


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