The Valley of the Sun has been in the national weather news recently for something other than triple-digit temperatures. The unprecedented deluge on Monday, September 8, resulted in cancellation of school for the day. Our new middle school head Paulsson Rajarigam took a bit of pleasure in reminding me of a comment I had made to him during our middle school head search last year. In my attempts to convince him to move from the East Coast across the United States to join our school community, I mentioned to him that in Phoenix I would never ever have to make another weather-related decision regarding school closing. (I thought this remark was a sound recruitment tactic in light of the fact that the East Coast and much of the rest of the country was enduring a particularly brutal and long winter.) September 8 proved my statement wrong in no uncertain terms.
So I was wrong. While the storm did have some damaging effects for some people’s property, including some school families’, there was not much at stake for me personally in having been wrong. In fact my decision to cancel school received much more support than many of my previous weather-related decisions in other locales. Nonetheless there is something liberating in being able to admit one’s mistake without gloss, something that has not always (and still not always) been comfortable for me to do. Even though to be human is to be wrong and to make mistakes at times, something in us resists accepting and admitting those moments in straightforward fashion.
There is also something liberating in admitting mistakes without qualifications. I have in the past attempted to nuance my acknowledgement with “if” clauses along the lines of “If someone was offended by my actions/remarks” or “If my words did not clearly express what I wanted to say.” In order to become the people we are called to be, we must move to more clarity and directness in acknowledging moments when we are mistaken. If we are unable to admit errors without qualification about matters such as our inadequate meteorological forecasting, we certainly will find it very difficult to admit mistakes when our words or actions cause substantial impact such as hurt and other unfortunate consequences for people, especially those about whom we care the most.
Until next time…