Anja Snellman

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Antti Aimo-Koivisto/Lehtikuva

JOURNAL

Finding Mercy in Mistakes

I think about mistakes every day. My own and those of others. I also hear a great deal about mistakes, both as an author and as a therapist.

Major blunders, regrets, and disappointments are often shared with a therapist. These are usually related to abandoned dreams, lost jobs, family feuds, and breakups. Promises that were never fulfilled.

AN AUTHOR cannot avoid mistakes. There are no perfect sentences, poems, novels, or essays—just as there is no perfect marriage, sex life, or child-rearing method.

There should be no perfect therapists either; genuine understanding can arise only from acknowledging personal issues and wounds.

THE LATE Christer Kihlman (1930–2021) was always one of my literary idols, and he also became a friend through his daughter, who translated my first novel into Swedish.

He once admitted on a talk show that he had made many mistakes in his life, been selfish, and hurt his loved ones.

The hosts were confused: his calm and unvarnished honesty was not “good television.” Perhaps it lacked the dramatic controversy, or forced drive and positivity, that we have come to expect of televised confessions.

WE ARE ALL BUILDING facades of perfection, particularly on social media. One mistake, and you are out, left alone, fired, stigmatized. One poorly thought-out word, one unintentionally ambiguous sentence, wrong time, wrong place. No mercy.

Being ridiculed or attacked is scary, and the number of people traumatized by social media is growing.

TALKING ABOUT mental struggles has almost become a trend—which is good.

What if we decided to share our mistakes and miscalculations more openly? When making New Year’s resolutions, we could also list our slip-ups for the past year, raise a toast, and carry on.

Anja Snellman

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