The Dallas Mavericks played the Brooklyn Nets this past Monday night. Jed and Ben went to the game, but because it started late, 8:45pm on a school night, Alex, Clay, and I stayed home. Clay had a 6:30am wakeup call time for basketball practice the next morning, but that didn’t stop he and I from watching the end of the late game after Alex fell asleep. It was going down to the wire: the Mavs were three points ahead when we fouled the Nets’ Kevin Durant as he went to shoot a three pointer. The plan had been to foul him before his shot was in motion, but Durant is too smart for that and began his shot as our player grabbed his arm. That meant he had three free throws.
As KD stood at the line, the announcers told us that he’d made 62 free throw shots in a row. That number is insane – 62 free throws! The assumption was that Durant would make all three shots and tie up the game, so the question was what the Mavs’ strategy should be after that inevitability. Durant hit his first shot as expected. Then, Durant, the man who has ice in his veins, missed the second shot. Simply missed it. Clay and I screamed. We couldn’t believe it. KD, who is known to be unflappable and clutch in the last seconds of any game, had choked. He missed the third shot on purpose so that his team could try to get the rebound and put it back up to tie. But the Mavs got the rebound and won the game. Even though we were happy our team won, Clay said, “I feel kind of bad for KD.”
Kevin Durant made a mistake at a crucial moment in a game and broke his streak of successful shots. Honestly, I was glad to witness it. Not because I wanted KD to fail, even though it benefited our team, but because it reminded me that we all make mistakes. Some are small and inconsequential, and some are bigger and reverberate longer, causing more hardship. But either way, none of us are immune from making mistakes.
And yet, we often react to mistakes by beating ourselves up instead of giving ourselves a break. When I say something or act in a way that is not consistent with how I want to be in the world, I revisit the scenario over and over, thinking about what I wished I’d done. I overanalyze and tell myself that I’m a failure. It takes a long time for me to overcome the regret and shame. Maybe overcome is too strong of a word. Some of the mistakes I’ve made even though not overly egregious will haunt me forever.
So, what do we do when we’ve owned up to our mistakes and have taken responsibility but can’t dismiss the fact that we made the mistake in the first place? I think one way to help ourselves is to believe we can and will do better the next time. The problem with dwelling on the mistakes we’ve made is that we decide, consciously or unconsciously, that they are indicative of our character. We make a million choices that are right and good, and we don’t give ourselves credit because that was what we were “supposed” to do. But when we make mistakes, instead of giving ourselves grace for the screw up, we may absorb it into our minds and bodies and tell ourselves the falsehood that “These mistakes prove I’m a bad person.” In most circumstances that is far from the truth. Just because we make a mistake does not mean we are forever flawed or rotten at our cores. We must remind ourselves that making mistakes is human and that we can make better choices. We have the power to decide how we view our mistakes. That is a hard truth for me to accept, but my hope is we can give our mistakes their due without using them to cut our self-esteem to the quick.
Kevin Durant was not happy with himself the other night. He said, “I went up there and missed one. It sucks. Nothing much else I can say about it.” But he didn’t decide he was a bad basketball player as a result. Instead, he scored 29 points the next game. Let’s decide our next mistake will be an opportunity to learn how we want to act in the future, not a permanent indictment of our character.