Mistakenly Mistaken

Written by BG Howard

February 22, 2023

For the sake of clarity, I’d like to first submit Merriam-Webster’s definition of the word “Mistake” which is: to understand (something or someone) incorrectly: to make a wrong judgment about (something): to identify (someone or something) incorrectly.

With this understanding of what it means to make a mistake one would think that any sane mammal that walks upright and puts on his pants one leg at a time could benefit from knowing when an error in judgment fosters poor results. In hillbilly vernacular, we like to call that a matter of good ole country common sense.

There are, however, those instances when you run into folks who think their “perceived” levels of intelligence are far beyond the gates of wisdom that have been handed down from generation to generation since the discovery of fire. My late grandfather, Nathaniel Sharpe would say, “Them’s peoples that’s too smart for they own good.”

In such cases when dealing with said people, it seems difficult for them to understand the fact there is a distinctive difference between what’s considered a mistake and ill-fated intent. This was not the case one Friday evening of last summer with me coming into town on Hwy. #15 out by the junior high school. I’d been coasting along with the cruise control set since leaving Blackshear when I passed a city of Baxley police officer. The car had turned back and was noticed behind me just as I approached the speed limit sign indicating the determined rate of travel as forty-five miles per hour. At the point the officer pulled me over, it was soon explained that I’d actually passed another sign prior to reaching the school which showed the same “city appropriated” rate of speed. Obviously, it must have been during the time I’d looked off in the opposite direction and simply took heed to the officer’s warning to be mindful of my speed. This, I submit, is a prime example of a mistake when I “identified something incorrectly” or actually failed to identify the speed limit marker.

Now, on the other hand, this certainly cannot be considered the case as it relates to a long-time acquaintance that has been married five times; which is reason enough that he should remain anonymous. In each instance he’s met the would-be wife and, shall we say, taken the wrong approach only to be before a priest and married within a relatively short period of time. And, as fate would have it, they’re usually back before a judge and divorced within a relatively short period of time as well. His reasoning is that the impromptu marriage was simply a mistake.

Another case of a young man I’ve known for about four years who’s not had his driver’s license since shortly after we met. He has been stopped, ticketed and/or fined so often for various reasons that the judge and him are on a first name basis. His reasoning is pretty much the same in the fact that it’s attributed to having made a mistake on each occasion.

The final situation to be considered involves a young lady who has known me for more than twenty years. She is constantly caught up in what I describe as emotionally detrimental relationships with guys who think that planning for the future extends no farther than dinner. The definition of insanity, I recently informed her, is to continuously do the same thing while expecting different results.

At some point we have to be adult enough to take responsibility for our actions and stop pointing to the “convenient” ruling of having made a mistake. How often does one continue making the same mistake before he or she learns it’s not a wise idea to yank a bulldog by the tail?

Responses you’ll often hear from people are an attempt to declare their regret for having done something wrong when what they’re really expressing in actuality is remorse for getting caught. It is, in fact, a mistake to accept the “I made a mistake plea” when the more appropriate action might be to encourage the individual’s seeking professional help in the form of counseling or therapy.

Obligation to a friend or relative in certain instances interprets no differently than the support one provides an alcoholic. To get the point across, it is sometimes necessary to employ what my late mother used to refer to as tough love. (Only, in her case, it was usually accompanied by a belt or broom handle.) The first occurrence she’d say is perhaps, a mistake while the second infraction could be considered folly but, by the third offense, whatever wrong one might persist in doing would have reached the point of habit. I could be wrong but it’s just something to consider.

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