It began as a case of mistaken identity. I was in the nursing home in Wayne, Nebraska (pre-pandemic) and was greeted by someone I hadn’t seen since ages ago. He had been visiting his mother who had just been admitted to the facility. I returned his greeting. We chatted for about a minute until one of the nurses called the visitor to her office for a conference. I then called him Dwight as we shook hands in parting. His face made a quizzical expression. Then he accompanied the nurse down the hallway.
It wasn’t until I began driving home to Norfolk that I realized I had mistaken my old cohort, Mike, for his younger brother, Dwight. Although three years separate them in age, Mike now resembles Dwight, more than he ever has. My faux pas was especially embarrassing because Mike and I used to work in the same office and sometimes hang out together–a lot. I worried that I probably offended Mike because of the mistaken identity. At the least, perhaps Mike thought I had become absent minded or worse. I felt terrible about the error.
After returning home, I emailed a former mutual colleague to request Mike’s email address. I obtained it then composed a short apology. Later that evening, Mike replied. He admitted that he was perplexed, but had chalked the case of mistaken identity to stressful worry about my father’s very ill-health. Mike advised me not to make a mountain out of a molehill. Mike wrote that he felt flattered that I had mistaken him for his younger, more handsome brother.
I appreciated Mike’s candor and humility; however, sometimes that social flub comes to mind and I feel a blush sweep across my face. I know Mike has a big heart and is kind to a fault, but this minor incident will probably stick with me as long as I live.
Intellectually, I know that it is unwise to make much ado about nothing. We should not make a big deal over honest, minor mistakes. The misidentification was not done out of malice, it occurred because I wasn’t fully alert during the brief chat. I wonder if Mike thinks about the incident as often as I do. In either case, it’s water under the bridge and I should permanently shrug it off.
People take so many things in earnest. The mind blows a minor goof like mine way out of proportion and turn it into the worry of a lifetime. Although I apologized and Mike light-heartedly accepted it, a small voice in the back of my mind wonders if being mistaken for his younger brother continues to bother Mike.
In other, less amusing matters, some folks escalate small matters by gossiping about everyone else’s personality flaws or minor errors in judgment; thus making a big deal out of everything. They embellish the facts and harm other people’s reputations. This causes us to cast doubt upon the gossiper’s character. Such talk stirs up a tempest in a teacup.
Most of what causes great consternation and dispute would be nothing if we simply leave minor matters alone. When a disagreeable thing happens, it is best to settle misunderstandings as quickly as possible. Waiting until a long time afterwards creates room for resentments and hatred to fester. If one waits too long, the conflict may become irreconcilable. Hence, much ado about nothing devolves into much ado about plenty.
In most cases, minor, unintentional errors can be left alone, because the cure would be worse than the infraction. If one has made amends for a simple, harmless mistake, there is no reason to make ado out of nothing.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Major League Baseball Hall of Fame player, Wade Boggs. “Our lives are not determined by what happens to us but how we react to what happens, not by what life brings us but the attitude we bring to life.”