It is a fact of human experience that learning and mistakes go together.
Mistakes contribute positively to every individual's development, if of course, we learn from them. They are not bad things, in and of themselves. Rather, it might be argued that mistakes work like molds to shape us, as individuals, and collectivley, our civilization itself.
Education, art, medicine, religion, science, business, to name but a few, have raised the human spirit and advanced the physical quality of human life -- because -- they built upon a huge pile of mistakes.
Where would medicine be without all of the people who were never healed? Where would science be without the experiment, or religion without deliverance from sin and suffering? How many businesses succeeded only after repeated failure? What is creativity if not a capacity to embrace interesting accidents? What child would ever have learned to read without many hours of awkward stumbling over hard words?
For mistakes to be useful, however, it is necessary to acknowledge them. The most successful among us are those who take the most advantage of their failures, by using them to improve.
Those who try to hide all shortcomings, cover up every error, boast rather than accomplish, or blame circumstances on others to avoid taking responsibility, do not succeed in the end. They lack the character required to learn from their mistakes, and they do not usually command our respect.
Leadership and government are especially tricky when it comes to mistakes. People want competent and confident leaders, individuals who make as few mistakes as possible.
This produces a conflict for leaders. The best way to make fewer mistakes is to learn from the ones that you do make. To learn from your mistakes, however, you have to admit them. But admitting mistakes may detract from your image as a leader. Yet mistakes are an inevitable part of life, let alone government.
How, or if, a leader acknowledges mistakes, shapes how much that leader is able to learn and grow and get better at leading.
A leader who has many failings, but admits none of them, runs a great risk of losing touch altogether, or even becoming a tyrant.
That is why democracy developed, as an insurance policy against out of control, out of touch leaders. And because democracy demands accountability, the character of people who are not able to admit mistakes is not well suited to leadership roles in a democracy.
The big question is whether the American people are able to admit their mistake -- and correct it on November 2nd.
The whole world is watching, and wondering, about OUR character.
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