To Err is Human


Henrylito D. Tacio

Mr. Tacio, who hails from Davao, is a correspondent of the Asian edition of Reader’s Digest. He is the first and only Filipino journalist to have been elevated to the Hall of Fame in science reporting by the Philippine Press Institute. In 1999, the Rotary Club of Manila bestowed him the Journalist of the Year award. He is also East Asia’s contributing editor of the People & the Planet based in London.

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A Filipino priest, visiting the north of Scotland, found a small hotel and decided to spend the night there. The hotel was so small that the owner was himself the whole staff. After the priest signed and registered, the proprietor took his bag and led him up three flights of stairs to his room.

Over the old brass bed hung a large oil painting that delighted the priest. “What a beautiful portrait of our Holy Father the Pope!” he exclaimed. The Scottish scowled and muttered under his breath, “The miserable old fox!”

Shocked, the Filipino priest admonished, “I hope you are not referring to His Holiness.” The Scottish replied angrily, “Certainly not. I am referring to the person who sold me the picture and told me it was Robert Burns in his royal Masonic regalia!”

It was a case of mistaken identity, indeed. But what do you think of this next story: The New York Times recalled a rather embarrassing event that reportedly occurred some five decades ago to Britain’s then foreign secretary, George Brown. In Peru for a reception, and quite intoxicated, Brown invited a guest in flowing purple robes to dance, but he was rebuffed.

“First, you are drunk,” the guest is said to have replied. “Second, this is not a waltz; it is the Peruvian national anthem. And third, I am not a woman; I am Cardinal Archbishop of Lima.”

To err is human, said Alexander Pope. Because we are human beings, we are bound to commit errors. No one is perfect in this imperfect world. Even if your intention is good, there are people who will find fault in what you do.

Because it cannot please everyone, a travel guide puts this warning in its editorial page: “Just in case you find any mistakes in the magazine, please remember they were put there for a purpose. We try to offer something for everyone. Some people are always looking for mistakes.”

We call these people critics. “Lots of faults we think we see in others are simply the ones we expect to find there because we have them,” Frank A. Clark reminds. After all, it’s 100 times easier to criticize than to create.

Of course you know Carl Sandburg, “one of the greatest American poets and biographers.” He had filled many newspaper positions, won prizes and awards for poetry, given the world a great biography of American president Abraham Lincoln, and became famous as a singer of American folk songs.

But Sandburg, like any other human being, once made a terrible mistake. In his famous biography, Abraham Lincoln: the Prairie Years, he wrote: “Lincoln’s mother was standing at the door of their cabin singing ‘Greenland’s Icy Mountain.’” Quite a feat – the song was not written until twenty-two years after Lincoln’s death!

More often than not, writers are bound to commit errors. In his immortal novel, Robinson Crusoe, author Daniel Dafoe had his shipwrecked castaway to try to salvage some goods: “I resolved, if possible, to get to the ship; so I pulled off my clothes, for the weather was not to extremity, and took to the water.”

After the naked Crusoe climbed aboard the ship: “I found that all the ship’s provisions were dry: and being well disposed to eat, I went to the bread room and filled my pockets with biscuits.” Suddenly, Crusoe was wearing a shirt?

“If you live long enough, you’ll make mistakes,” former American president Bill Clinton said. “But if you learn from them, you’ll be a better person.” That was what George Washington had in mind, too when he wrote a letter to Fielding Lewis. “To rectify past blunders is impossible,” he penned, “but we might profit by the experience of them.”

Some people are afraid to make a mistake. But then making mistakes is part of life. You won’t learn anything unless you do something. As Albert Einstein once said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” Or as John Bradshaw said, “It’s okay to make mistakes. Mistakes are our teachers – they help us to learn.”

There are six mistakes that we, human beings, are bound to commit, according to Cicero. These are: The delusion that personal gain is made by crushing others; The tendency to worry about things that cannot be changed or corrected; Insisting that a thing is impossible because we cannot accomplish it; Refusing to set aside trivial preferences; Neglecting development and refinement of the mind, and not acquiring the habit of reading and study; and Attempting to compel others to believe and live as we do.

If ever you done something wrong to another person, the best thing you can do is to ask for forgiveness. More often than not, because of our pride, doing so is the hardest thing to do but that is the right thing to do. “Please, forgive me.” “I am sorry.” Whichever of these three words you will utter; it will definitely do the trick.

When David perpetrated the greatest mistake of his career as king of Israel – by sending the husband of Bathsheba in the battle to get killed so he can have the wife – he asked forgiveness from God and sincerely repented.

David prayed, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not case me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (Psalms 51:10-12).

“To forgive is divine,” Alexander Pope again said. “Forgiveness ought to be like a cancelled note, torn in two and burned up, so that it never can be shown against the man,” pointed out Henry W. Beecher.

January 2019 Health and Lifestyle

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