Once upon a time, there was a woman who was very good at writing. Better at writing than speaking, in fact. Able to reduce people to tears in forty words or less. (I’m not sure I would boast about such a talent, but there you go.) She decided to write a blog. Not to make a giant argument, or lobby for a point of view, but to use her skills and passion to try to make the world a better place. She’d had plenty of unusual life experiences, and had crafted through the years an extraordinary ability to find the positives, to understand life from other people’s perspectives, to learn more than was just obvious. Basically, she was somewhat over-analytical and had made a deal with herself to only put it to the good, knowing that any other option would lead to the bottomless pit of depression.
And then one day she wrote a post that she shouldn’t have. Not because what she said what was wrong, but because she referenced, in a way that nobody but those present would know, a gathering of friends that was supposed to be confidential. Somebody 1 complained to Somebody 2 (the writer presumes). Somebody 2 texted the writer. The writer was perplexed, mainly because she had forgotten about the nature of the particular gathering (think of it as when you have a friend that you go with to AA meetings. You can talk about your dinner party on Friday night, but not what happened at the AA meeting on Saturday morning. Now imagine both the AA meeting and the dinner party happened in your living room, and it’s easy to get confused.) But eventually (as in, hours later), the writer was able to figure out her mistake, and rewrite the post so that she was making the same point without referencing the particular confidential gathering. Problem sorted, according to the writer.
Thing was, Somebody 2 kept texting to make sure the writer would make the change, and telling the writer to make it right with Somebody 1. The writer watched with some amusement as the stats on her blog were the highest she’d ever recorded up to that point. The writer was torn between the need to be true to her creative soul, the whole point of her blogging adventure, and keeping the people happy. She thought that she had muddled through and done both.
Nobody ever actually in real life ever said anything to her about the blog post (not even to thank her for “correcting” it). Not Somebody 1. Not Somebody 2 (although the latter, apparently, did mention to the writer’s partner that she had made a very good point, apart from using off-limits material to do so). The experience lit a bit of a fire under the writer, because she was forced to question her blogging motives. She updated the permanent pages on her blog to include references to why she blogged. She wrote about blogging ethics. She very nearly gave up the entire experience, but realised that actually, if her story helped one person make sense of a difficult time in their life, then it was worth it.
Because mistakes do that sometimes. Make you realise how important, or unimportant, things are. Help you see things with greater clarity, if you take the opportunity to look. Help you to do things better. Because the writer never made that particular mistake again. (Anybody who disagrees – put it in the comments. As long as you’re polite, your views will be aired.)
But that’s not the end of the story. In fact, that’s not the point of the story. Because that wasn’t the end of the consequences of the mistake.
Because months later, the writer discovered, quite by accident, that the offices of the church that she attended had been quite abuzz over that blog that weekend. On Monday morning, everybody was talking about it. (Somehow, the writer managed to keep her mouth firmly closed when she heard this.) That explained the sudden hike in views – everybody checking to see whether or not she had “fixed” her mistake. Nobody commented. Nobody ever said anything to her. The person who told her the story had not actually read the blog, and had only asked because of all the fuss that had been made. This was the church leadership talking amongst themselves about something that somebody (i.e., the writer) had done without ever mentioning the church in any way. In fact the writer had written it without even thinking about the church (although the “corrected” blog may have referenced a conversation that occurred in church, but that wasn’t a confidential one.) They were talking about it enough that somebody who hadn’t known the writer particularly well was able to remember the incident months later.
The writer lost much of her respect for that church leadership at that time. (Why? Because it struck her that leaders talking to other leaders but never actually talking to her about what had gone on seemed an awful lot like gossip. But like I said, over-analytical.)
So while I wouldn’t recommend writing the “wrong” thing, people’s responses when you make a genuine mistake can be extremely enlightening. Some people expect you to forgive their mistakes, but won’t forgive yours. Some people will talk about you behind your back. Some people will take the time and trouble to ask you what happened, months later.
People tell me that I’m supposed to be kind, that I’m supposed to do everything in love. I do try. But when people throw me in the shit, they have got to expect that some is going to land on them.