Mistakes. Sometimes they're bad, sometimes they're good, and sometimes you can learn from them. But one thing is certain: most people, if not everyone, makes them, some more than others. However, not everybody is happy with or realizes this, sometimes they need to learn a lesson and that's what this trope is.
Usually, this is how this trope will play out: a character makes a mistake. It might be something they're just learning to do or something they're already a pro at, or maybe it had a consequence that could disappoint other people, like it made them lose a game or something.
Then, the character will have either or a combination of these feelings: embarrassed because they think everyone will laugh at or shun them for making the mistake or they'll lose their reputation as a good [whatever], or sad because they think they'll never be able to do the thing they're learning to do, weren't cut out to do something they were previously good at after all, or think that the consequence (e.g. making their team lose) was their fault. How they act on these feelings may vary: they might just cry or sulk, they might shy away, or they might try to give up the thing they made a mistake doing or go to ridiculous extremes to try to avoid making other mistakes.
They might also try to prevent anyone from knowing about their mistake, which will inevitably fail. Common ways they'll try to prevent people from knowing are hiding the evidence (for example, trying to fix the Priceless Ming Vase or hide the stained dress) and blaming other people or the weather, which might fail because the lie is just too implausible and will usually lead to a second lesson: that lying is wrong.
Then, they'll learn that their mistake, and mistakes in general, are fine and normal. Maybe their role model reveals the fact that they make mistakes too, or made similar mistakes when they were first learning to do the thing the character is learning. Maybe all it takes is a Rousing Speech about how everyone makes mistakes and (if it was a mistake at something they're still learning) that practice makes perfect. Maybe they learn it of their own accord, often because they have to try what they failed at again, sometimes even to save someone's life. Anyway, they're happy now. Sometimes this happens over the course of a whole plot, sometimes just a single scene or a subplot.
It must be noted that often the attitude is that mistakes are more forgivable if the mistake-maker has tried their best. The less effort they took to avoid making the mistake, the more likely they are to be at least partially blamed for it (which is why trying to invoke this trope on yourself to pull a Never My Fault is almost guaranteed to fail). However, if they did not realize that effort needed to be made or did not know how to make the effort (and it wasn't easy for them to learn how), they are more likely to be forgiven for not making effort, provided that they learn from the mistake as much as possible. As such, this trope is related to the Sliding Scale of Unavoidable vs. Unforgivable.
An obvious (and regular) subversion of this Trope is that someone tries to bring up this lesson, only for the failure to become Worse with Context and thus the lecture becomes that this mistake is "the end of the world".
Common in children's entertainment. A variation is seen in the Toilet Training Plot which lets the kid know that having accidents is okay. Contrast Can't Get Away with Nuthin', because sometimes with that trope, even if you do something accidentally it's unacceptable. Often serves as An Aesop. The mistake may become a Career-Building Blunder if someone's boss invokes the trope. Compare A Lesson in Defeat for when mistakes are necessary to learn humility. The B Grade (where a straight-A student is sad/afraid/shocked because they got a B) often leads to this trope, but it's not quite a sub-trope because sometimes it only shows up as a brief gag. Compare and/or contrast The Perfectionist. May stem from an It's All My Fault moment. If the mistake causes a lot of misery, the speaker (or the writer) will enforce that Misery Builds Character. This trope might be used to bring a character out of a 10-Minute Retirement. See also Necessary Fail, where something bad happening today leads to something good happening in the future.
One idiom that basically sums up this trope is "To err is human", sometimes with "To forgive is divine" attached to it. It means that all humans make mistakes and it's acting in the spirit of God to forgive.
- Zigzagged in The Wonder Years fanfiction A Time to Kill, a Time to Heal. Kevin and Paul are taking R.O.T.C. courses in college and when their side loses during an exercise, their instructor tells them that it's OK to make mistakes, but only while in training and only if they can learn something from the mistake that they can use to their advantage in the next exercise.
- One song that features in the bonus features of Beauty and the Beast (but not in the movie proper) has the upbeat, if grammatically incorrect, lyric "a little give, a little take, a little it's OK to make a small mistake."
- "The Song of the Heart" from Happy Feet and as performed by Prince has this in its lyrics.
Look, everybody makes mistakes- oh yeah, not one or two (Right!) / But that don't make the dirty little things they say about you true!
- This is the entire moral of Meet the Robinsons, to the point that the titular family literally celebrates whenever a failure occurs.
- In Captain Marvel, Carol's former mentor tries to imply that she's inferior because whenever she tried a sport in the past, she'd fall down on her first try. Carol retorts that this doesn't make her inferior because she would always get up and try again.
- Star Wars: A signficant theme in The Last Jedi, with a ghostly Yoda teaching Luke that the greatest teacher is failure.
- In Dreadnought, a novel based on Star Trek, Captaincy Candidate Piper is forced to command a Federation warship named Dreadnought whose crew consists of inexperienced cadets. She tries to convince herself that mistakes won't hurt because it's just a simulation.
- In The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes, a girl named Beatrice never made a mistake in her life but freaks out when she makes her first mistake, yet inexplicably is fine with mistakes when she makes her second.
- In the kids' book Lulu's Loo, Lulu is a little girl who still wets her pants and her mother says it's no big deal.
- In the Peanuts book "You're a Big Brother, Charlie Brown!", set during Sally's infancy, Charlie yells at Sally for messing up his favorite jigsaw puzzle and then feels bad about it. He tells Linus, who informs him that mistakes happen and that siblings can get along, telling him not to feel too bad. However, Lucy then yells at him for taking her comic book. note
- In The Potty Book, Henry and Hannah wet their pants and their parents say it's OK. Downplayed as this only takes up one page.
- Sesame Street books:
- In "Potty Time with Abby", Abby says that she sometimes makes mistakes while potty training (either the usual mistake of not getting there on time or her trademark mistake of turning things into pumpkins). She tells the readers that making mistakes while potty training is normal.
- In "P is for Potty", Elmo's cousin Albie wets his pants and Elmo and Mae (Elmo's mom) reassure him that it is OK and that Elmo used to wet his pants as well.
- In "Everyone Makes Mistakes", Big Bird accidentally knocks over some laundry and tries to lie about it but learns that it's fine to make mistakes.
- In "Toilet Time", it shows the main cast as toddlersnote and Ernie's page says that Ernie sometimes has accidents and has the message "That's OK, Ernie!".
- In the kids' book Super Pooper and Whizz Kid, a cat and a dog tell the readers how to use the toilet and at the end, they say, "Remember— accidents happen and that's OK.".
- The Time To book "Time to Pee" ends with a sign saying, "P.S. Don't worry if you don't get it right the first time; you'll get another chance."
- An episode of Oobi has the title character perform in a piano recital. When he makes a mistake, he gets scared and runs off stage. His best friend Kako reassures him that mistakes are no big deal. When Oobi returns to the stage, he plays the piece perfectly.
- On Out of the Box, the episode "Making Mistakes" was about this and featured the song "Turn a Mistake into Something Great."
Turn a mistake into something great / Try and see it from a new point of view / If we make a mistake, we can try to create something different and totally new!
- The Shining Time Station episode "And the Band Played Off" features a song called "Learn From Your Mistakes" about how mistakes aren't completely bad because they can be educational. It also provides advice on how to prevent certain mistakes.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation:
- Played with in "Peak Performance": Data (an android) loses a game to an alien and spends a lot of time checking himself for a malfunction. Pulaski and Troi (the latter of which is unusual as she's known Data for a long time and can sense emotions) both think he's discouraged and give him a speech on how mistakes are OK, but it turns out he's not discouraged, in fact he has no emotions— he just couldn't logically see how the alien was skilled enough to win against an android. Eventually, Data wins by playing hyper-defensively until the alien gives up.
- In "Coming of Age", Wesley fails his entrance exam to Starfleet Academy and believes he's failed the people he knows too, but Picard tells him that failing an entrance exam is fine the first time as long as you improve before trying again.
- An episode of Young Sheldon has Sheldon getting upset over getting 95% on a science test because he used a different method of working out one question to the one his teacher was expecting, and spending the rest of the episode trying to prove to the teacher his method was equally as valid as the accepted one. The teacher eventually realises that Sheldon's method is correct, and presents him with a re-graded paper, hoping to demonstrate to him that mistakes aren't always a bad thing, as long as you own up to them and treat them as a learning opportunity. While old Sheldon, narrating the episode, claims to have taken this moral to heart, he also claims that on the day when he finally does make a mistake, he's fully prepared to own up to it.
- The children's song "Uh-Oh, It's an Accident!" is about how accidents (such as bonking your head, wetting the bed, falling off a chair, or "going potty in your underwear") are a part of life and teach us to be more careful in the future.
- "Falling For The First Time" by the Barenaked Ladies is about a perfectionist learning that there can be a joy in failure.
- Bear in the Big Blue House:
- Played with in one episode. Pip and Pop are having trouble using the hula hoops they just got but they actually don't realize they're making mistakes— they think the hoops are broken or need batteries. When Bear tells them that they're just inexperienced and need to practice, they are totally fine with it, although later, they let everyone know that "if it hits the ground [unintentionally], then that's OK" during their song.
- In "When You've Got to Go", Ojo cries about having wet herself, but Bear reassures her that accidents "can happen to anyone".
- In "Oops, My Mistake", Bear sings a song called "Oops, I Goofed Again", about how making mistakes is not a big deal.
- Sesame Street:
- In one episode, the Count makes a counting error (counting the same number twice) and this makes him not want to count anymore because he fears making another mistake. Unfortunately, all the jobs he applies for involve counting. When Elmo makes the same error and says he will give up counting, the Count changes his mind.
- "Elmo's Potty Time" has a song called "Accidents Happen" about how it's fine to have accidents while potty training.
- The song "Everyone Makes Mistakes" is sung by Big Bird to various characters about how making mistakes is universal and normal.
- In one episode, Rosita writes the "R" in her name backwards, Big Bird fails to dunk a ball, Zoe and Abby fall over while dancing, Bert forgets the lyrics to a song, Cookie Monster burns some cookies, the Two-Headed Monster fails to drum, and Elmo makes a math error. A woman appears and sings a song called "The Power of Yet", which is about how they aren't able to do what they're trying to do yet, the word "yet" implying that they will be able to in the future.
- One animated skit has this as a Double Aesop, the second Aesop being not to lie. A girl named Cookie breaks the window while trying to play baseball with her cat Lucy. She imagines lying to her mother that Lucy broke the window but then imagines "them" (presumably her parents and possibly other family members) punishing Lucy by not letting her in the house and she'd have to bunk with Bruno, their dog, who wouldn't like having her in his kennel so she'd run away. This makes Cookie cry and fess up to her mother, who tells her that she's brave for telling the truth and to be more careful in the future but that sometimes, things don't work out and accidents happen.
- Played with in one episode. Linda breaks Ruthie's pitcher but doesn't notice because she's in a hurry and deaf. Elmo, however, thinks Linda is afraid to tell Ruthie, so he asks Ruthie what "someone" should do if they're afraid to admit that they broke the pitcher. Ruthie thinks that Elmo is the one who broke the pitcher and is afraid to tell, so she tells him about a time she accidentally broke her uncle's lamp but when she told him, he wasn't mad because it was an accident. Eventually, everyone finds out what really happened to the pitcher.
- Downplayed in the episode where Elmo learns to roller-blade. People talk about how it's OK to fall down and he just needs practice, but he mostly acts like he already knows that.
- The song "Trying and Trying Again" has lyrics such as "don't be afraid because you are small and don't be afraid that you may fall, you can get it after all, it just takes time."
- In an animation on Hector's World, Hector signs up his younger friend Tama for a video game using his personal details, but it turns out that the arcade is being run by a criminal group called the Info Gang who sells personal information to other criminals. Hector worries that he's a bad person (or dolphin) but Kui tells him that although he knows to do better in the future, he is not bad because he would never endanger Tama on purpose.
- Downplayed in "Elmo's Potty Time", an online game based on Sesame Street. Louie tells Elmo that "it's OK to have accidents", even though Elmo didn't have one.
Louie: It's OK to have accidents, but you listened to your body and you didn't have one.
- Exaggerated a Translator Fails video which has the lyric "If you are wrong, you are cool."
- One episode of Arthur has Arthur having to give a piano recital to the rest of the school and being terrified of being mocked if he messes up. He ends up playing the piece almost perfectly, with one wrong note near the end, but still gets a round of applause from the school, genuine compliments from Binky on his "unique interpretation" of the end of the tune, and reassurance from his Grandma that he was the only person who noticed or cared about the wrong note.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Aang hides the fact that he ran away from his home at the Southern Air Temple due to threats to be separated from his father figure, Monk Gyatso. He comes to regret this when it is revealed that the Air Nomad Genocide wiped them all out in a search for him, only he finds out by the discovery of their rotting corpses. He hides this from his new companions for a short while, even though it is likely what ensured his survival. During his spiritual training under Guru Pathik, the Hermit Guru teaches him to let go, accept his failings, and move forward.
- A Boy Named Charlie Brown provides a semi-cynical example, which is the one sweet point in a borderline Downer Ending: after Charlie Brown got second place in the national spelling bee because he didn't recall how to spell "beagle" right, every positive thing he gained over the course of the movie is lost in a second, especially his boosted self-esteem. Linus has to give it to Charlie in the most blunt of manners: "the world didn't end". Not that he got second place in the national spelling bee, not that his true friends are those who won't ridicule him over this (except Lucy, of course), and not reminding Charlie again that his classmates missed him while he was out on the competition, but that this is just one mistake and he's still got the rest of his life to live.
- On Butterbean's Cafe, with a busy cafe and a lot on their plate, Butterbean and her friends do sometimes make mistakes. Handling them with grace and finding ways to fix things are important themes on the show.
- This is a specifically stated show philosophy on Dragon Tales. According to the show's parent FAQ, one of the program's three primary educational goals was "to help children understand that to try and not succeed fully is a valuable and natural part of learning." Installments of the program frequently showed this philosophy in action, such as in "Knot a Problem" when it takes many tries before Max finally gets the hang of tying knots.
- Ms. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus frequently invites people to "take chances, make mistakes, and get messy".
- In the Martha Speaks episode "Martha Fails the Course", Martha fails an agility course because she's too big for the equipment and Francois (the agility course's owner) laughs at her. Martha doesn't even want to walk anymore for fear of falling over and being made fun of, but eventually she learns that mistakes are fine and can even be funny.
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "The Cutie Pox", Apple Bloom gets the illness mentioned in the title because she tried to get a cutie mark by brewing a potion at Zecora's hut without her permission. Zecora cures her and tells her not to feel bad because, as she puts it, "With each mistake you learn something new, growing into a better you."
- In the Peg + Cat episode "The Allergy Problem", Peg is sneezing a lot and thinks she's allergic to Cat, then a bird accidentally takes Cat away. Thinking he ran away, Peg goes off with Ramone in search of him and a whale accidentally swallows them, along with Cat. When they get back, Peg miscounts something before finding out that what she's really allergic to is clovers. After so many mistakes made by different characters, everyone sings a song about how mistakes are not a big deal.
- A common theme in Ready Jet Go! is that no one and nothing is perfect and it's okay to make mistakes, because that's how you learn. Sean, The Perfectionist, always gets frustrated when mistakes are made, but over time, he grows more open to trying and failing. Jet even has his own song about trying and failing: "If you try and you make a mess, who cares if it's not a success?".
- In The Simpsons episode "Homer's Enemy", Frank Grimes observes that Homer is an incompetent worker at the power plant, but Lenny shrugs it off by saying that everyone makes mistakes, which is why pencils have erasers (he misses the point that Grimes is trying to bring up, which is that multiple near-meltdowns are not the kind of "mistake" that should just be allowed to slide, but that's Springfield for you).
- Transformers: Robots in Disguise: In the season 1 episode "One of Our Mini-Cons Is Missing", Jetstorm comes to Earth in a self-imposed exile since he made a mistake and thus fears the wrath of his master Drift. The mistake is eventually revealed to be that he polished Drift's sword incorrectly. By the end of the episode, Drift reminds him that making mistakes is natural when learning, and welcomes him back.
- In the VeggieTales episode, "Silly Sing Along 2: The End of Silliness?", Larry goes into a deep depression when his mess-up of "The Song of the Cebu" (from Josh and the Big Wall) leads to the cancellation of the show's "Silly Songs With Larry" segment. Jimmy tries to assure Larry that it's not the end of the world just because he messed up on a song.
- In one episode of Xiaolin Showdown, Omi and the gang tell Master Fung that they lost a shen gong wu. He tells them that it's not the end of the world and to learn from their mistakes, but when he finds out which shen gong wu they lost he cries "But that can only mean the end of the world!".