I can learn a lot about how to deal with challenges in life from my daughter and the bumper sticker now on back of her car.
The lesson, however, is not in the message printed on the silver vinyl, but rather the symbolic imperfections resting below the sticker itself.
“Why is there a bumper stick on the back of the car?” I asked my wife.
“Well,” she said, “she kind of backed into a wall and scratched the paint on the bumper. Her solution was to make it go away by putting a bumper sticker over it like a Band-Aid.”
I thought about the situation and our daughter’s creative solution. To me, being in the same situation would’ve eaten me up. The offensive scrape would be calling out to me in my sleep, urging me to get to a body shop the next day and have the new imperfection either buffed out or repaired by a professional.
To my daughter, imperfections add, what she calls ‘character.’
I remember the first dent on her car, only months after she collected her permit.
Backing her car out of the garage in the dark, her front quarter-panel clipped the side of the wall as she cut the wheels a bit too quickly. The wall was fine – the car left with a two-foot indentation.
“I’ll get it up to the body shop and see what they say,” I said to her, thinking this would help relieve her from feeling too bad for an innocent mistake.
Instantly she shared a penetrating look you can only project as a teenager.
“Why?” she said. “I was too perfect before. Now this gives it character.”
Most of us in life tend to put too much gravity into the value of the mistakes we make in life. For many of us, we replay the situations or events over and over, wishing we’d made a different choice, hoping for a different result.
But the truth is most the people in our lives never really notice or care about our little mistakes or imperfections to the extent we do.
Life is a long, hard road filled with difficult decision to make – many times made with incomplete information or not enough time to think them through. No one gets out of life without an occasional anxious moment of wishing we could get a ‘do-over’. But it is just those mistakes, those lessons we learn along the way, which help to form the basis for our character in life.
Like the scrape on the back of our daughter’s car — the one now hidden below a bumper sticker — some mistakes are relatively small in inconsequential in the big picture of life. Beating ourselves up for innocent little ‘dings’ in life is probably counter-productive and can lead an unfair sense of self-worth. We all probably need to learn to be a bit more forgiving to ourselves.
In life, mistakes will happen. Some big. Some small. Maybe what I need to learn from my daughter is how to slap a cool bumper sticker over most of them and remind myself there are much bigger things in life to worry about.
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