I was reading this morning, and somehow got stuck on a couple of verses found in the Gospel of Matthew. You can read them for yourself in Matthew 14: 7 and 9, but the gist of the story (found also in chapter 6 of the Gospel of Mark) is that Herod offered his step-daughter anything she wanted, up to half his kingdom, because she did such a good job of dancing for him and the guests at his birthday party. Salome’s request (she wanted the head of John the Baptist) took Herod by surprise, and he would have liked to renegotiate, but ‘because of his oath and his dinner guests’ he kept his promise.
I certainly don’t mean to imply that as a general rule it’s ok to break promises, just think about how long your kids remember broken promises, but this was a dumb promise to begin with; and that must have been some fancy dancing to warrant such a big tip. Things would have been quite a bit different, at least for John the Baptist, if Herod had been willing to admit that he had spoken without thinking, and ‘please accept my apology, but that wasn’t quite what I meant to say’.
Bottom line, the king thought he had to save face, and live up to his extravagant claims in front of his friends.
Sometimes we all get in over our heads, and it would be nice to know that it’s ok to pull back and reconsider. We all make decisions that later we wish we had never made, and in a perfect world, there wouldn’t ever be any question if we changed our mind. Of course in a perfect world we also wouldn’t make mistakes. But we don’t live in a perfect world, and sometimes the decisions we make on the spur of the moment, aren’t the best ones we could make.
We’ve all heard that it’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind. I think that men should have that prerogative too. On a personal level we make decisions regarding education, relationships, careers, housing and finances. Leaders make decisions that impact the future of the organization, and by extension, the future of the people that work there. Politicians make decisions that impact their constituency, and at whatever level, it seems that people get locked into the idea that once a decision is made, there is no turning back.
We don’t want to be seen as weak, or indecisive, or worse that we don’t know what we are doing, but there are some decisions that should never have been made and it’s actually a sign of strength to admit the mistake, and change direction.
I guess I don’t want to be so much like Herod that I let what other people think control how I think. Part of being human is our capacity to make mistakes, but in a lot of cases we also have the capacity to do something about those mistakes. Sometimes we need to back up and reconsider, and often instead of being a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength.