It’s not polite to laugh at other’s mistakes. Laughing with others regarding the kind of mistakes we all make is, on the other hand, a whole different matter. When we laugh with others regarding our mistakes, we are laughing in solidarity as fellow members of the imperfect human race.
It is in the spirit of laughing with that I share with you the mistake captured in the photograph above. This diploma was presented to approximately thirty graduates of the prestigious Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University in Chicago. If you look closely at the name of the school on the diploma you will see that the word “Integrated” is missing a letter, and it is hard to miss the irony of a school of journalism making a spelling mistake on a very important document. We can laugh with the person who made the typographical mistake in full hopes that their colleagues can find some humor in it too, knowing that it can so easily be corrected.
“To err is human; to forgive, divine,” said Alexander Pope, an 18th century English Poet. These are good words to remember whenever we make a mistake. They are even better words to remember when someone we know and love makes a mistake.
I like to think that the Divine takes things even further when we make mistakes. I believe that not only does God forgive mistakes, but I also believe that God has a way of redeeming mistakes. To redeem a mistake is to actually turn the mistake into something better than what might have happened if the mistake had never occurred. I remember a particular Sunday I was confused and mistakenly thought that my colleague was the one assigned to preach at that morning’s services. When the time for the sermon came and I realized that in fact I was the scheduled preacher, I quickly had to move past my confusion and anger at myself and gather my wits. I decided to simply acknowledge my mistake and create a conversation with the people present by asking them what thoughts and concerns were on their minds that day. Several people shared inspiring and joyful stories, and others expressed concerns, allowing us to know each other a little bit better and strengthening our community in the process. This would have never happened if I had realized that it was my week to prepare a sermon.
The redeeming factor of the typographical error on a diploma given at graduation is that it simply serves as a great reminder for the graduates, and for the rest of us, that as we move and live out in the world embarking on careers and developing a life, that no matter how smart we are, no matter how hard we work, no matter how far we get in life, we will always make mistakes. That is a given. What is not a given is the ability to not take things too seriously, and being able to laugh and forgive ourselves and others when mistakes occur. That is not a given, but it is a choice. It is also a choice to go a step further and participate with the Divine in transforming mistakes into new leanings and possibilities. Again, the choice is ours.
To be able to do make these choices on a consistent basis is truly to be able to “itegrate” spiritual and emotional wellness into our everyday lives!
**Thanks to my colleague Megan Krings for calling this story to my attention.