I explained to her my understanding that mistakes are often made in spite of our best efforts to avoid them. Medicine is, more often than we care to believe, misapplied by the experts in a complex biological world. Economic considerations and prejudice toward certain procedures often reduce the quality and availability of the care we want provided. Human error may be reduced significantly with careful and expensive procedures, but never eliminated. We expressed to the nurse our gratitude for her service and exchanged hugs. St. Luke’s sent us a letter acknowledging the mistake and thanking us for our gracious attitude. They refunded the insurance company for a few extra days in the hospital and thankfully let a fine nurse keep her job.
This personal experience and Elder Packer’s both allude to a common forgiveness principle that crosses the boundaries of all fields of human understanding that are applied for our benefit. Many people, like doctors and nurses of medical science, seek to benefit their fellow man, as they best know how. In the moral sciences, we all find ourselves to be practitioners. We tend to believe that moral laws, like scientific laws, are constant and never changing at the highest levels. We seek to benefit others with what we learn, for the rules we learn should apply to them just like they do to us. While this is often the case, we may fail to appreciate that these rules or principles we learn--though derived from physical observation or spiritual confirmation--are always applied through humans with a limited understanding of a complex world. We may also fail to appreciate differences in individual circumstances that make a certain law, rule, or principle we seek to promote of lesser or no use to someone else. Our human mental and spiritual abilities are often blunt instruments in practice.
The greatest of surgeons is like the greatest of prophets and will never be perfectly precise for everyone. When they are not precise, and it causes harm to someone, perhaps even ourselves, we must of practical necessity, "let it go." We must let go, not because the practitioner does not need to feel pain for their mistake. (I believe they often feel plenty of pain over a mistake without the offended party piling it on.) Indeed, there should be accountability and consequence for those in technical and moral leadership positions to provide adequately and accurately, for as many people as possible. It is reasonable that, in some cases of gross negligence, pushing back with tools like malpractice suits and public statements are appropriate for the greater good of all. However, we must more often “let go” of mistakes so others may receive of the blessings that come from what practitioners of science and morality do get right, for most people, most of the time. The consequences of unnecessarily suing doctors and defaming others to include political and moral authorities will typically result in less access for others in need and less time used constructively.
It may seem paradoxical, but part of what it means to honor and respect our church, medical, political, business, and other leaders, is to frankly acknowledge and understand their human weakness and forgive when forgiveness is a benefit to all. When we see their faults, such as inaccuracies and generalizations, it may make sense to voice a concern for the sake of benefit and learning. We must never tear them down simply for practicing with the blunt instrument of human understanding. Truth is, their understanding is often of better use to others and much sharper than our own.