Errare humanum est – To err is human ~ Alexander Pope
Spend time with navy chief petty officers and you will be treated to copious stories of colossally bad judgment and virtually an equal number of redemptive tales. Learning life’s lessons the hard way used to be the hallmark of senior enlisted sailors. These days sailors have fewer opportunities to recover from what I call the “big stupid.”
Are you like me? As a kid I took enough foolish risks that it’s virtually a miracle I reached adulthood intact. And those were downright tame compared to ones I took as a young adult that should have landed my in jail or worse. A little less good luck and who knows where I’d have been without the ability to redeem myself. (Don’t worry Mom, I don’t do such things anymore – well except the whole navy thing but that’s different isn’t it?)
Growth comes from reclaiming yourself after you make mistakes, small and large. So the one strike and you’re out nature of zero tolerance has deleterious effects on personal development and a host of other issues:
- It discourages risk taking. While taking foolish risks is, well, foolish, taking calculated risks is the hallmark of dynamism that spurs you to greater success, be it professional, in relationships, or serving G-d.
- It inhibits heuristic (a great word that means “hands on”) learning. Think about how much you’ve learned from experience verses books and classes. Hands on learning instills the most enduring lessons.
- It devalues those who aren’t academically inclined. Perhaps you don’t absorb book-based learning particularly well. Trial and error is your path to success. Should you be held back by fear that you may say or do something on your road to education that has permanent consequences?
- It’s wasteful. There aren’t any acts that should necessarily bar you from the path of redemption. What about murder you say. Well, it’s true I don’t think Charles Manson should leave prison alive. But we have parole boards to make such decisions on a case-by-case basis. For mistakes that are not as dire, such as saying something stupid, the professional consequences can be all but permanent. Wouldn’t it be better to let the person learn his lesson and move on?
Ironically, zero tolerance policies thrive at a time when pleas for tolerance have never been greater. I have written about tolerance before, how it’s something you give not receive. What I’m suggesting here is that it be given more generously. By being more tolerant of people’s mistakes you will create empathetic relationships.
You may have you own zero tolerance policies. Are they serving you and your family or are they holding you back?
What should absolutely never be tolerated?