Mistakes and Repairs
Recently, I made a mistake. While facilitating a group I said something that broke the safety of the group. I said I knew of another group in town that I and many of my friends had negative experiences with. I had my reasons and intentions for bringing this up, but how I said it came out all wrong. How I said it hurt the group because it sounded like gossip. How I said it made this other group bad and wrong. As I was trying to make repairs and create understanding I made another mistake. Although I didn’t name this other group, I mentioned the first name of a person who facilitates some of these groups. I didn’t say anything negative about this person, just that she runs some of these groups locally and that I knew her. What I didn’t realize at the time is, this communication created the idea that I think she is bad and wrong. The intention of mentioning this other person wasn’t to hurt or blame, but to pacify the groups’ need to know who/what this other group was. What I came to see is, when I did this I sacrificed this other person in order to save myself. I panicked and I could tell that some of the group members were upset so I reacted out of fear and said her name. I should not have done this and I did not fully realize at the time what the impact of doing this would be.
This was the kind of mistake where as soon as I said it I knew. I knew that what I said was wrong, although I did not understand the fullness of what I did, I knew that it wasn’t ok. In the moments after when I tried to correct my wrong I made it worse. Words came out wrong and I dug a deeper hole for myself and created more pain in the group. See, my pain body was activated and the pain body of those present was activated. Trust was broken. When I saw this I went into flight mode and my prefrontal cortex went off line. Yes I was thinking, but not coherently. My thoughts were stuck and I kept saying the wrong thing in different ways over and over again. Then I mentioned this other woman thinking that would help the group. I literally could not find a way through thoughts or words to describe what I said and why. I tried to take a break to gather my thoughts, but it took days to understand what I did and why.
Since I didn’t know what to do. What I chose was to take time to be with myself. I sat with what I did and allowed myself to feel it. I asked myself questions like; what prompted this? Why did I do this? Who did I hurt? What do I need to own? What in me was activated that needs to be seen, acknowledged and felt? Once I had a clear understanding I was able to move forward and hopefully make authentic repairs with the group and with the woman I named
These repairs were in no way clean. They were hard, scary, and painful. I sat with, and talked to each woman who was present as well as the woman I named. I listened to how each of them felt and how my actions impacted them. I barred my soul, showed my wounds, listened to their pain, and I sat with their feelings, reflections and perceptions. I owned how I hurt them, how I broke safety and trust. I owned my actions and apologized to the best of my ability. In doing this I had to let go of the need to be understood and liked. I had to sit with and accept how my relationship to these people changed. The natural consequences to my mistake were out of my control. The natural consequence to my actions meant people lost trust in me and lost value in the service I was providing.
The hardest part of this experience was the layers of pain I created. Not only did I hurt myself, I hurt the people present, and the person I named. There have been ripples of gossip which has created false truths and changed relationships.
In this experience it has been interesting to look at control and trust. I made a conscience choice to not try to control the outcome. I gave up the reactive need to make everything ok. The truth is, I can’t make it ok. People will have their own feelings and process around this. I can’t change that or lessen the impact of that. I realize that when I am overly committed to making everything ok I am coming from fear. Fear for me tends to look like control. I am scared of the relationships I have ruined, the reputations I have tarnished and the trust I have lost. It scares me to think people will look at me in a negative light. Like most people, I want to be accepted and liked. The truth is, I am not and the truth is, I hurt people sometimes. I cannot control this and I cannot control the outcome of this situation. Where my power lies is in owning my mistake, sharing my honest/authentic and raw truth. I can only control myself and my actions. The ripples are out of my hands. It’s a scary reality, but I have to trust that who I am, my integrity and how I own my mistakes speaks loud enough for people to forgive me. I also trust that those who I have touched negatively will show up and share their experience allowing me to see them, allowing me to hear how I impacted them, and allowing me to make amends.
Although this has been a painfully layered experience it has given me the chance to look at myself. It has showed me areas of growth I need to make. It has showed me how to be clear and impeccable with my words. It has showed me that what I say matters. That how I choose to show up matters. That owning my faults and mistakes matters. . I also learned that….. In naming this woman I was making an unspoken divide…….an us versus them…..a we are right, they are wrong. That was not my intention, but as far as intentions go that doesn’t matter. What matters is what happened and how it was received. I set the stage for a divide that quickly had a life of its own. I cannot fix this, but I can own that I did this and that I am sorry I did.