The Attitude Lounge: Mistakes and Evils

Kodwo Brumpon

“If sin persists for a year it becomes tradition.” – Nigerian proverb

Life offers us a blank canvas to paint anything we want to on it. There is no rule regarding what colours or paints to use, neither the brushes. All it wants is for you to pour yourself on that canvas. The blankness can be intimidating for some and discouraging for others. But for a handful, they see it as an opportunity to dare. They see it as their chance to make the canvas obey their wishes. The difference between the two sets of people is their willingness to make mistakes. The first group is so bent on not making mistakes that they end up making the greatest mistake – not daring. The latter group behaves otherwise.

It is no secret that we all make mistakes, even though we strive with the greatest possible care not to. Sometimes it happens because we assume we have knowledge about circumstances and things which is not necessarily so. Other times, we make mistakes out of sheer ignorance.

Whichever it is, mistakes are to a large measure the building blocks upon which humanity has nurtured its progress. There is no such thing as mistake-free life. That would be a life hidden in a box, locked away in a warehouse on a forsaken island. For every interaction, no matter how small it is, can get lives so mixed up in controversies and mistakes which nobody can even be sure where they started, let alone try to correct them.

Our imperfections, the fact that we all live with some underlying assumptions, means the least word or action could set off a chain of mistakes. For example, it is quite normal to mistake one person for another due to a resemblance, or we might substitute one sound for another depending on our mood. And then there are those mistakes where some individuals, believing in a falsity as truth, have taken decisions that have triggered trends and gotten a whole group of other persons to modify their attitudes in favour of that little mix-up. It happens a lot in politics and in religion. Such mistakes bring upon us temporal annoyances, but we get over them and strive for another day.

In reality mistakes make us humbler, more knowledgeable and more self-reliant. Any time we can say “It seemed like a good idea when it was first conceived”, we have matured. Such is the mystery of mistakes. They present us with opportunities for learning; allowing us to live and to live meaningfully.

All our evolutions – from normal to good, and from good to great – rest on how well we learn from our mistakes and the those of others. Without mistakes, we would not know what not to do and what to do over and over again. This means our accomplishments more or less depend on our willingness to learn from mistakes or mistakes in general. It is probably the reason one of the factors given for success centres on failing at least once. All said and done, mistakes enable us to stand on the threshold of our evolutionary process with the pride of knowing what to allow and what not to.

Mistakes lead us astray for a while, but eventually we get back on the right path. The bigger challenge in life is when we are deliberately misled, or when we deliberately mislead others. That is not erring through ignorance but being evil. Being mistaken is not the same as being evil. To be evil is to know that your actions will lead others to believe what is false to be true. That is to present the opposite of what you think in your heart, with the purpose to deceive.

Very often we do that to manipulate others so they behave in ways that will make us benefit while they suffer. We all know that any person who can allow his/her fellow human to suffer while he/she benefits in not a person we should entertain, much less glorify.

Interestingly, one would think many of us would desist from evil. But no: on the contrary, quite a sizeable number among us give a thumbs-up to decisions that we know very well do not offer any good for society. We actually hail individuals who do that. We close our eyes to injustices because we are not directly affected, and because our cronies are the ones affecting them. Why we do that is a question we all avoid answering. Maybe, and just maybe, we get some pleasure from being wicked or seeing others engage in it. Otherwise, why is evil on the increase?

Sadly, quite the surprising majority among us – because of the disorienting perplexities of selfishness – find it extremely difficult to recognise evil when it first appears. Thus, we unconsciously offer evil a good, rich soil to breed and grow in – only realising the deception when its rot begins. But the deprivation of good must stop if our lives are to become meaningful. We must take steps to minimise evil in our society.

We need to stop ignoring our duties, as well as put a halt to our lustfulness for what is hurtful. We need to live selfless lives so that good might thrive, instead of evil enveloping our world. And we need to encourage ‘good’ people to get into our body of politics.


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