To Err is Human

Unbelievably, it happened again. Three years in a row. A different mistake every time, but mistakes nonetheless.


I like to shop, especially with someone else’s money, so I gladly agreed to order supplies for my department at work. This meant taking inventory of what we already had, collecting the requests of my coworkers, and putting together a purchase order within the budget I’d been given.


You’d be surprised how particular speech therapists can be about their supplies. Paper clips, glue sticks, tape, Post-Its and folders come in a surprising array of choices, and there were particular preferences to accommodate. The catalogue I had to order from was thicker than a phone book.


I happily put items in my shopping cart, then printed it out and handed it into the main office.


This week, the boxes started arriving. That’s when I noticed that for the third year in a row I ordered the wrong desk calendar.


Not a big deal you might say. Except for the three therapists who use them to write down a multitude of meetings, parent phone calls, to-do lists, notes and reminders.


The first year, we laughed because I accidently ordered refills and everyone had thrown away the plastic frame that anchors the pages within plastic corners. Not a big deal. My coworkers were understanding and gracious.


The second year, I was careful to not order the refills, but the dimensions of the calendar were wrong. Once again my coworkers were understanding and gracious.


And now this year’s order is in. I did not order refills. The dimensions are correct. But the calendars run from January 2017-December 2017 instead of from September 2016-September 2017. Since the catalogue is for school staff, what employee needs a calendar that spans two school years, both incompletely? Really? Why is that item even in the catalogue at all? Come on. At the very least the item should have been titled Administrator Desk Calendar.


But isn’t this so typical of life, too?


Sometimes we are so careful not to make a particular mistake, we end up making others.


And oh, there are certainly many, many ways to err. Probably as many ways as there are options for desk calendars.


Like the parents who overindulge their children to compensate for the childhood they never had, only to realize they raised children who are not financially responsible.


Or like the person who lost a job due to a lack of productivity and then becomes a workaholic, setting aside commitments to family and friends in an effort to avoid another loss of employment, only to damage or lose important relationships.


How disheartening it can be to work so hard to avoid one mistake, only to learn you’ve made another.


This reminds me of the Apostle Paul’s frustration with himself:


I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…..

For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 

Romans 7:15, 7:19


In these writings, Paul wrestles with committing sins, even when he knows better. Although ordering the wrong item (three times) is not exactly a sin, Paul’s words point to our human nature to make mistakes.


We know we shouldn’t eat that piece of cake so we refrain. But then pour a glass of wine instead.


We know we shouldn’t buy that cute jacket we don’t need, even though it’s on sale. So we treat ourselves to a new purse to reward our restraint.


I suppose we could argue that my error in the school purchase is a little different because it was accidental – I didn’t knowingly order the wrong ones – whereas the other scenarios involve a bit of denial and choice. But I was careless. Either way, the fundamental truth holds; our human inclination is to make mistakes – all kinds of mistakes.


To err is human; to forgive, divine.

Alexander Pope


And just like my kind and gracious coworkers who forgive me year after year, we have a heavenly Father who forgives us much. Just as I will sheepishly confess my mistake to my colleagues, we need to bring our errors to God and ask for forgiveness. He is faithful to always grant it to us.


Which is exactly why we need to extend grace to each other. Nobody is without fault and we all need forgiveness for mistakes large and small.




In the scheme of things, ordering the wrong desk calendar, even three years in a row, is a small mistake.


I just hope my coworkers agree – yet again.

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