“No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;” John Donne
I’ve been in discussions with other authors about the frustrations we share when we think we have a “perfect” manuscript, then someone points out a missing word, or an extra word, or improper usage, and the mistake becomes a glaring beacon. Evident and obvious. “How could I have missed THAT when I read the manuscript about a million times, out loud, backwards, every which way but loose?”
It boils down to the fact that we can’t always see own mistakes, a fact I have pondered off and on my entire adult life. What am I doing that others think is wrong? What am I saying that another finds insulting or offensive? I do not deliberately set out to offend anyone, but it happens from time to time.
I consider it a sign of caring when someone points out an error I’ve made. Which brings me to the answer of why I think we can’t see our own mistakes: we need others. As John Donne so eloquently wrote, “No man is an island entire of itself.”
How can we correct something we don’t know is wrong, or could be made better? We need others who are willing to point out things we’ve said or done incorrectly, or missed altogether. If we are insulated, others can’t help us.
I am a person who wants the truth. When I ask for an honest opinion, I sincerely expect it. Even when the answer is, “Yes, that dress does make you look fat.” Or, “That’s not a very realistic scenario in your book.” I may feel a little put-out, but it enables me to look at things from a different perspective, and make effective changes.
I strive to be kind to others and tend to make positive–rarely negative–comments. But, when it’s important to point out a needed correction, or someone asks for my candid opinion, I give it. People can accept or reject what I say.
There are people who seem to thrive on pointing out others’ mistakes, or making hurtful comments that crush others. I consider that mean-spirited, perhaps born out of jealousy, or insecurity. Maybe those are the people who consider themselves islands, in and of themselves.
But the rest of us can endeavor to be helpful with our corrections. As John Donne says, “because I am involved in mankind.” And we can be, too.