My kid has this book about making mistakes called, “It’s Ok To Make Mistakes.” It’s cute and means well, but there is one page that drives me nuts.
There is an elephant standing on a diving board over a pool who clearly does not want to jump off that diving board into that pool. And the copy reads, “It’s ok to change your mind, everyone is ready at a different time.”
I get that it’s trying to say take your time, be patient, have some self-compassion.
But it’s communicating the opposite.
It assumes the elephant should want to jump off the diving board and into the pool.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with the elephant if he doesn’t care for diving boards or pools. It’s totally fine if he wants to do his own thing, maybe he’s into music or knitting or learning Python or crypto. I don’t know his life. But to assume “desire to one-day jump off a diving board” is a universally shared desire?! That is a premise I do not accept.
I always edit this part of the book and tell my kid that it’s ok if the elephant doesn’t want to jump or go in the pool. The issue is not that he’s, “not ready.” The issue is that the adults around him assume he should be something other than he is and aren’t accepting him for how he’s showing up.
He is not the problem.
And now this poor elephant is going to spend his entire life thinking something is wrong with him for not feeling “ready” to jump into the pool.
No one ever shamed me for “not being interested in electrical engineering” because no one assumed I should be. But I suspect at least someone reading this was. Replace “electrical engineering” with whatever your culture values – being a doctor, liking the beach, being skinny, being muscular, being sporty, not wanting to travel, wanting to travel – and that is your “diving board and pool.”
It makes no sense that to assume we all want the same things. And to shame someone for honoring who they are by wanting something different is a sin I think we all need to start atoning for.
Today is Yom Kippur and it’s not often the holiest day of the Jewish calendar falls on the day you send out your newsletter so welcome to my sermon on atonement and reconciliation.
Yom Kippur is supposed to be about atonement for “sins.” You’re supposed to make amends for your wrongdoing.
But in order to do that, you have to first admit that you’ve done wrong. You can’t say “forgive me” without saying “I did this.”
Forgiveness demands an admission.
I don’t like the idea that we’re all full of sin (because we’re not), but I do like the idea of intellectual honesty about things we’ve done.
Whether you’ve shamed someone for not desiring to be who you wanted them to be or shamed yourself for not being who they wanted you to be – Own it. Say it. See it. Admit the thing you’ve done.
And then go do something different.
Gmar chatima tova,
PS: In the spirit of the holiday, go read Why Won’t You Apologize. It’s the world’s best book on a topic none of us knew there was this much to say about. Turns out none of us know how to give a decent freaking apology?
(if you prefer audio, listen to the author, Harriet Lerner, chat about “apologies” with Brene Brown and wait for your mind to be blown.
I swear I ignored this episode because it sounded boring until Justine Sones and Sara Frandina made me listen and . It’s a two-parter and I’ve listened to both. twice.)