Freedom to err

Statue of Mohandas K. Gandhi in Waikiki, Honol...

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Freedom is not worth having if it does not connote freedom to err.

–Mohandas Gandhi

I never heard of the above quote by Gandhi before.  That’s a shame, as it encapsulates something I’ve been thinking and saying for a long time.  We have to be free to make mistakes.  We have to be free to be wrong.  Until we can grant ourselves that freedom, we cannot grant ourselves any freedom.  Because any course of action we might take will be bound up by fears.

When faced with a choice, there’s always that chance we will make a bad choice.  It’s a fact of reality.  We may do our best to make the most informed choices humanly possible.  But there’s no such thing as total knowledge.  There’s no such thing as being perfectly informed.  So sometimes, we make a bad choice on our imperfect information.  We either accept that possibility, or we rob ourselves of the ability to act at all, out of fear of doing exactly that.

And truth be told, why not allow ourselves the freedom to make a wrong choice?  Is making a wrong choice really such a bad thing?  Certainly, wrong choices can cause problems.  (But then, so can right choices.)  And wrong choices can hurt people.  (But then, so can right choices.)  But in my experience, there are few situations where the the choices and their results are so awful, so irreversible, that it would spell the end of the world, or the end of anything at all.

In most cases, a wrong choice leads to a mess that can be cleaned up.  So we clean up the mess, we repair the damage the wrong choice created, and we learn from the experience.  What’s more, we’re probably better equipped to make better choices in the future because of that learning experience.  That’s the gift of allowing ourselves the freedom to be wrong.

I would rather make a thousand mistakes then never make any choices because I’m frozen by the fear of being wrong.

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