by Annette Bridges. © 2008. All rights reserved.

So you’ve made a mistake. You know it and so does the rest of the world. What do you do about it?

Consider what American Idol contestant, Brooke White did. She began to sing a song and almost immediately forgot the lyrics. What were her options?

Option 1: She could have run off the stage in shame.

Option 2: She could have covered up her mistake by singing the wrong lyrics and hoped no one would notice.

Option 3: She could have admitted her mistake immediately and corrected it by starting over, giving her the opportunity to remember the lyrics.

If you’re a fan of the show like me, you know what she did — option number 3. And I give her kudos for her choice.

I think it accurate to say that we don’t usually make mistakes purposefully since most of us would say we don’t want to learn “the hard way.” I know I would rather “get it right” the first time. Still, it seems we discover a mistake only in hindsight — sometimes the moment after making it or sometimes not till we’re further down the wrong path. Regardless of when we realize a mistake, dealing with it appropriately requires courage and integrity.

Running away from a mistake will never help us discover the valuable lesson waiting for us to learn. I’ve certainly done my share of running from mistakes. For me, it may have been more of not taking responsibility for the mistake that was mine. It was easier to avoid facing this difficult truth. But was it really?

When a mistake we’ve made hurts others or causes problems for others, it is our selfishness and pride that feeds the unnecessary pain that a corrected mistake would alleviate. When we’re the only one suffering from our mistake, we will never get free from the misery and suffering our mistake is causing us, until we correct it. Then we would be ready to learn the lesson that will keep us from making the same mistake again.

Trying to hide a mistake is simply another way to avoid facing it and correcting it. It is also another way to deny responsibility. The cost is a high price to pay. It could be your credibility that is lost.

I don’t know if Brooke White will be the next American Idol or not. But she is sincere, genuine and honest, and I for one love her voice and style. I was in no way surprised by her ability to immediately compose herself after making a mistake — in front of millions I might add — and start again singing her song correctly and beautifully.

She gave us a good example for what to do when we goof. Stay calm. Keep our cool. Gather our thoughts. Consider what to do next to remedy the situation. And then do it. Don’t panic. Don’t run. Don’t cover-up. Don’t over-analyze or dwell on it. As the Nike slogan says, “Just do it.”

Although it may at first seem difficult to do the right thing after you make a mistake, people will respect and appreciate your honesty. Perhaps at times people won’t immediately value your owning up to the mishap or maybe even want to punish you for your failings.

But I know I’ve learned my greatest and most memorable lessons from my mistakes. I’ve always gained much more than I’ve lost from the experiences. And usually, if I’ve lost anything, it has been something that needed to be lost so I could gain something even better.