What is BrokenLessons about Mistakes

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What is Broken

Lessons about Mistakes

It is Mother's Day in Egypt. Unlike the United States, where Mother's Day is always a Sunday in May, Mother's Day in Egypt is always March 21st; today, that is a Wednesday, so the mothers in my group of Positive Discipline trainers have gone off to spend lunch with their children at school, celebrating their connection and love for each other. I have been sitting in the sun on a second-story balcony, watching life in the street below me and marveling yet again at where I am. There are men sitting below me with their sandals off, talking and laughing together. Another man trudges patiently from a pile of sand in the street to an upstairs apartment in this building, carrying by hand all the materials needed for construction. Parents walk with children and women hang laundry to dry on balcony clotheslines; it is peaceful and warm, just another day in Cairo.

Today, as in every Positive Discipline training, we talked about mistakes and how, if we handle them correctly, they become marvelous opportunities to learn and grow. I've noticed that people in Egypt often have a noticeable response to this statement--doubt, surprise, disbelief, hope--and today I learned why. In Egypt, one of my group explained to me, it is said that "What is broken cannot be repaired." Mistakes are forever, discouraging failures to be hidden or punished, forgotten as quickly as possible. The idea that a mistake might make things better in the long run is strange--and unbelievably encouraging.

Neuroscientists these days talk about the idea of "rupture and repair." Rupture--a break in a relationship caused by anger or disagreement--is inevitable. What matters is how well we do our repair work: like the man in the street below me, carefully and patiently working to heal the breach and build again so that the rupture is no more. If we do this work well, the researchers tell us, a relationship can actually become stronger than it was before the damage occurred. In other words, if you make a mistake, clean up the mess and then go one step further: learn what needs learning so that you don't repeat the mistake. As a colleague of mine is fond of saying, "Wouldn't it be wonderful if we learned to say to our children 'Oh, good! You made a mistake!' I wonder what we'll get to learn today?"

Sharing these ideas with my new friends is adding depth to my own understanding, as I watch them make Positive Discipline their own. A friend asked me the other night if I was lonely, doing all this teaching by myself. I certainly miss my colleagues and would love to share this experience with them, but no, I am not lonely. I am surrounded by love and respect, and by people who share my heart if not my language. What more could I ask? Happy Mother's Day, mothers of Egypt!

| Posted by cheryl | Wednesday, March 21, 2012|


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