Dr. David Henderson

Saving Mr. Blank

Fixing Your Forgetfulness
February 24, 2014
David Henderson

No, there is not a typo in the title above. My wife and I saw the movie, Saving Mr. Banks, several weeks ago and we both loved it (even though I tried to convince her beforehand to see Lone Survivor instead!!). After the movie I thought about how enthralled I was by the plot, the acting, the scenery, and the lessons embedded in the story. I was captivated. My attention was fully engaged. I found myself wishing I could be that focused in real life. Unfortunately, I’m not.

This past week, I had a breakfast scheduled with one of my good friends, and I completely forgot about it. To make matters worse, we had seen each other the day before, and he specifically asked if we were still on for it. When I woke up the next morning and saw his text asking what happened, I was mortified.

Back-tracking the events of the previous day, I was able to do a “post-mortem” on my failure. I had a speaking engagement the day before and put my phone on do-not-disturb and then forgot to reverse the settings. Subsequently, the alarm on my phone did not go off the next morning and I over slept. Even so, I could have made it to the breakfast, but without the reminder, my mind went completely blank. (Now do you get the title?) I started my daily routine without even thinking about the appointment. It wasn’t until I finished some work on the computer that I checked my phone. By that time, it was too late.

Post It Man

Thankfully, my friend was gracious, but I still felt bad. It got me thinking. How should we respond when our minds go blank? When we fail to live up to the commitments we have made, is there any hope of redemption and restoration. Here are some responses that I have found helpful:

1.Own the failure: When you commit to something, it becomes your responsibility no matter what excuses you may have for why you failed. Don’t use the excuse that it was out of your hands, even if it really was. You are welcome to give an explanation for your failure, but don’t expect that the explanation will sufficiently satisfy the offended party. That is something they have to decide.

2.Owe the friend: If at all possible, try to make amends. With my friend, I offered to reschedule for lunch (so that I would be sure to be awake in time – I haven’t slept until noon since college), foot the bill (we normally go Dutch when we get together), and step it up a notch (Let’s just say, I didn’t take him to 7-Eleven for a chili dog). Now, I recognize in doing these things that they don’t negate the time of his that I wasted, but they were gestures of good faith to demonstrate my sorrow and say that I do value the relationship.

3.Oust the feeling: My tendency is to hold on, to feel embarrassed and uncomfortable when I make mistakes like this. But if I do, it actually means I am too proud to let my friends know that I am human, and in any relationship, this is the inevitable realization, the longer you are together. So I have to be willing to forgive myself and let it go, move forward, and accept mercy and grace.

4.Omit the Frequency: There are times when we just blow it. But some failures become patterns of behavior we have to change. If your friends start calling you Mr. Blank, you might have a problem with forgetfulness. There are two ways to respond. We can say, “Oh well, that’s just me” or we can chose to change. It may require work. We may need help from friends, family, books, coaches, a therapist, or even a physician, but we need to recognize when we have areas of our lives that need to improve and really make an effort to change. Remember, excellence is a process. Don’t give up on it. Don’t give up on yourself!!

Question: How do you respond when you blow it? Are there ways that you have found helpful to make amends? What successes have you had in overcoming unhealthy patterns in your life?