Let’s talk about mistakes.The big messy juicy mistakes–both the words we say and the ones we don’t. The places where we are not our best selves or the moments we wish we could do over. We are going to make mistakes. People are not born to be perfectionists, we are born to take risks, to try and to fail. We are, after all, human. So let’s admit that we all make messes.

We live in a world where we are told that faster is better. But in living out that value, we miss things; we miss people, and we don’t think we can slow down. We deliberately don’t attend to something we see. Or we tell ourselves that we will return to that person later when we have time, though that time never comes. In some cases faster is better, but that is rarely true for a human connection with someone. Building empathy and trust takes time. And moving quickly in our relationships with people can create confusion, hurt and misunderstanding. Fortunately, there is a way to genuinely repair the mistakes we will inevitably make with others.

At Soul Shoppe, we use the Clean-Up as a guide for young people to navigate through those mistakes. The Clean-Up is a five-step process focused on repairing harm. It starts with recognizing the harm that was caused, feeling the impact of it, and apologizing. When we understand the hurt from an action or behavior we were part of, we naturally want to learn what we could do instead and make a commitment to do things differently next time. The process ends with asking for forgiveness.

Why’s it’s Hard to Say Sorry

Young people are initially reluctant to use the Clean-Up. They sometimes have had the experience of being pushed into saying “sorry” before they actually feel that way. Or they’re told they won’t get in trouble if they tell the truth when we know there will be consequences. In these situations, young people feel blame and shame and rarely get to the important process of experiencing empathy, apologizing and making it right. When we have the intention to make it right and the willingness to listen, so much more connection and compassion is available. And the next time we make a mistake (and there will be a next time), we know we have a tool to help us clean it up rather than keep us separated.

The Clean-Up gives us a way to build connection, and through admitting our mistakes, it gives us access to our own power. We recognize that we have power to impact the people around us, to repair relationships and to understand that our mistakes can be part of our growth. When we frame young people’s mistakes positively as part of the way they’re powerful, it helps them build self-esteem rather than focusing on how they’re “bad.” It gives them more freedom in their lives.

As adult allies, we can be role models to show young people what it looks like when we take responsibility for the hurt we have caused. Is there a young person or adult in your life you could do a Clean-Up with? Someone you know you hurt or missed? This level of honesty and courage is what our young people are longing for. Try it on and see what happens in your relationships. It’s time for some Spring Clean-Up!