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15 Comforting Quotes About Making Mistakes

In 1711, legendary English poet Alexander Pope composed one of his most famous works, An Essay on Criticism. Less of an essay and more of a lengthy poem, the piece features some of the greatest phrases in the English language, including “fools rush in” and “a little learning is a dangerous thing.” But it’s line 525 that has truly stood the test of time for its elegant simplicity in summarizing an undeniable truth: “To err is human.”

Those words have resonated for centuries because everyone makes mistakes. The very nature of living is to essentially fumble your way through it, however imperfectly, trying to make wise course corrections along the way. Many great minds — from Greek playwrights to astrophysicists — have wrestled with the reality of human imperfection, and have reframed mistakes as not just inevitable, but meaningful and valuable.

Often, it’s the way we react to our mistakes — how we forgive, learn, and move forward — that truly defines us and our happiness. After all, there is a second part to Pope’s famous axiom: “To err is human; to forgive, divine.” These 13 quotes speak to the instructive power of mistakes, and how to move past them stronger than before.

Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.
— Mahatma Gandhi

One of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect. Perfection simply doesn't exist… Without imperfection, neither you nor I would exist.
— Stephen Hawking

A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.
— George Bernard Shaw

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world.
— Neil Gaiman

We should regret our mistakes and learn from them, but never carry them forward into the future with us.
— L.M. Montgomery

Living with regrets was like driving a car that only moved in reverse.
— Jodi Picoult

All men make mistakes, but a good man yields when he knows his course is wrong and repairs the evil. The only crime is pride.
— Sophocles

Mistakes are, after all, the foundations of truth, and if a man does not know what a thing is, it is at least an increase in knowledge if he knows what it is not.
— Carl Jung

A step backward, after making a wrong turn, is a step in the right direction.
— Kurt Vonnegut

I never made a mistake in my life. I thought I did once, but I was wrong.
— Charles M. Schulz

You need to give yourself permission to be human.
— Joyce Brothers

What is done cannot be undone, but one can prevent it happening again.
— Anne Frank

If you keep lookin' back, you gon' trip going forward.
— Radric Delantic Davis, aka Gucci Mane

A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals to discovery.
— James Joyce

That's the very reason they put rubbers on the end of pencils... because people make mistakes.
— Phoebe Waller-Bridge

Do not fear mistakes, there are none.
— Miles Davis

Photo credit: CBS Photo Archive via Getty Images

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About the Author
Darren Orf
Darren lives in Portland, Oregon, has two cats, and writes about science, technology, nature, and history.
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