Forgive Them For They Know Not What They Do


Making Mistakes

“What does it feel like when you make a mistake?”

It’s a question that Kathryn Schulz asks people.

She’s an expert in mistakes.

I imagine many of us are experts in making mistakes. She is an expert is what mistakes are.

https://www.harpercollins.com/9780061176050 and TED.


What making mistakes feels like

Schulz discovered that people answer the question, “What does it feel like when you make a mistake?” with variations of “it feels awkward,” “embarrassing,” or “shame.”

She deftly points out is that these answers actually are mistakes themselves!

“It feels awkward,” “embarrassing,” or “shame” are answers to the question, “What does it feel like when you realized you made a mistake?”

The answer to what it feels like when you make is a mistake, is, actually, nothing. Most of the mistakes we make – in fact, almost all of the mistakes we make – we don’t knowingly do.

When I taught Mathematics in high school, students would drop a negative sign in solving an equation. I could have berated them, “What were you thinking when you dropped the negative sign on that equation?”

I didn’t.

Because the mistake wasn’t intentional.

No one intentionally drops the negative sign.

And, the same is true of almost all other mistakes.

(I wrote “almost all” so that the exception you are pondering right now can be correct.)

No one plans on how they can really screw things up.

Mistakes just happen.


Broccoli, not broccolini!

Jane and I walked with the kids to Trader Joe’s, pulling our quite beaten up, but still very practical Radio Flyer ATW – all terrain wagon. The kids parked the red beast with the oversized inflatable tires near the front door – and then disappeared down aisles to fetch boxes of mac and cheese, packages of salami, and other foods that they like.

Jane and I were in the newly expanded produce section.

Jane doesn’t usually do food shopping with me. But, as it was a sunny day, she wanted to help out, and we wanted to spend time as a family, there we were.

(On the weekends I like to roast up a lot of veggies, put them in containers, and use them throughout the week.)

As Jane doesn’t usually do this shopping with me, she is blundering all over the place. She picked up the organic bananas instead of regulars. I kept my mouth shut. An extra 10¢ a banana isn’t worth causing waves.

However, when she added broccolini to the cart instead of broccoli, I said, “Oh, honey, that’s not the right one.”

She said, “I can’t… I didn’t know… how do I know?”

Jane didn’t have a little impish devil figure on her shoulder urging her on to get the wrong fruits and veggies. She wasn’t yielding to temptation. She simply did other than what I wanted her to do.


What were you thinking?

You know that phrase, “What were you thinking?”

I have trained myself to stop asking it.

And, I would like to ask that you stop saying it as well.

What was Jane thinking when she reached for the broccolini?

She was thinking that she was doing the right thing.

No one thinks that they are intentionally doing wrong.

  • Not the people organizing a pro-gun, pro-Trump, pro-Christian rally during a pride parade in Eugene
  • Not my student dropping the negatives
  • Not Jane picking up the “wrong” produce

People don’t think they are doing wrong.


Forgive them, anyway.


if they just didn’t know better at the time

if they were doing what seemed right to them at the time


it behooves us to emulate the famous rabbi who said about those who condemned him to death, ”forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

People don’t think they are doing wrong.


Sorry, you are a grown up.

I know it feels great to shame someone who is wrong.

I know it feels powerful to lash out.

But, that is not something that will make this world a better place.


From Dr. Kent Keith & Mother Teresa

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

Share with a Friend


Also by Rabbi Brian

77% Weekly
Rabbi Brian

Go To Bed, Dad

Go To Bed, Dad.  It’s Tuesday night.  I’ve just come downstairs and entered the living room; Jane, Annie, and a beloved young friend, Calliope, are

Read More »
77% Weekly
Rabbi Brian

Kickstarter Book Launch

    Hello Beloved friend,   I don’t have an article for you this week. And, I’m sorry.   I’m working (mindfully, with compassion towards

Read More »

Because you want peace trust self-esteem love .