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Being Willing To Admit Our Mistake

I Made A Mistake!


J. Michael Sharman


 


Mistake.


            It's a mistake.


            I made a mistake.


            I'm sorry I made a mistake.


            I'm sorry I made a mistake. Would you forgive me?


            It sure seems like it takes a long time for us to be able to get to that point doesn't it?


            Whenever a disaster occurs, we don't like to face the unpleasant fact that we may just possibly be the cause of it.  We want to be perfect, or at least have other people think we are. (It is possible to appear to be perfect, but doing so requires a real skill for being able to put your mistakes off on someone else.)


Sydney Harris, an old Chicago journalist, wrote, "When we commit a gross piece of stupidity, we call it an 'honest mistake – as if most other people make dishonest mistakes." This past week I had a few of my own honest mistakes brought to my attention.


In my last column, I incorrectly calculated statistics from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as the basis for my statements that, "Fifty percent of all African-American women's pregnancies end in an abortion, compared to only 16% of white women's" and  "57% of all unmarried women's pregnancies end in an abortion."


Here are the correct, verbatim quotes from the CDC report: "The abortion ratio for black women (503 per 1,000 live births) was 3.0 times the ratio for white women (167 per 1,000 live births)" and "The abortion ratio for unmarried women was 8.8 times the ratio for married women (570 versus 65 abortions per 1,000 live births)."[1]


The man who invented the eraser had me pretty well sized up. I should have added the number of abortions to the number of live births and derived a percentage from that, when instead I just divided the abortions by the number of live births. Had I paid attention in sixth grade and learned to do my math right, I would have given my readers the proper interpretation of those statistics, which is: "Thirty-three percent of all African-American women's pregnancies end in an abortion, compared to only 14.3% of white women's" and  "36.3% of all unmarried women's pregnancies end in an abortion."


The racial gap and marital gap in abortions is still enormous with the correct figures,  but having those figures correct is crucially important in our ongoing social policy dialogue.


Later in the week, the defense attorney of a child molester I'm suing pointed out another one of my mistakes. In an earlier column, I had written, "The computer analyst in Warrenton was sentenced to fifteen years in prison on one count of Aggravated Sexual Battery, but he served only three months in jail." The defense attorney said I was mistaken, the child molester had actually served six months.


The court file says the molester pleaded guilty to one count of Aggravated Sexual Battery and was sentenced to fifteen years in prison, but he had fourteen years and six months of that time suspended. In our area, if you have less than a year to serve you normally serve it in the county jail, and when you serve time in the county jail you normally get one day "good time" for each day you serve. However, from what his defense attorney tells me, and I have no reason to disbelieve him, for some reason this particular child molester  actually served each day of his six months incarceration.


            The third mistake of mine to come to light last week involved a business purchase I made which my wife had advised against. I wanted to sign up for an online legal research database which "only cost" $241 a month. My wife pointed out that I already had a number of other research databases and $241 a month for the term of the three-year contract would be nearly $9,000. I signed up anyway.


            When the bill came this month it wasn't for $241, it was for $1,614. The $241 is for the basic library but going beyond that basic library costs up to $15.80 per minute. Yes, per minute. I couldn't believe it, either. Wouldn't it be wonderful if mistakes could be sold for as much as they cost?


            The only thing I can say is, "Honey, I'm sorry I made a mistake. Would you forgive me?"