Everyone makes mistakes. Unless you do nothing. And that would be a mistake.

George Bernard Shaw said, “A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.”  Perhaps the greatest mistake is continually being afraid you will make one.

An old saying declares that to err is human. In other words, human beings are imperfect and are going to make mistakes. Therefore we should not be too harsh on someone (or our self) when mistakes are made.

There are many reasons why we make mistakes. Limited or incorrect information can cause a person to engage in inappropriate actions or give voice to thoughts that should be kept silent. Sometimes because we want to “do it my way” we stubbornly act in ways that are not helpful. At other times, we attempt to do something that is beyond our ability. Mistakes are often the result of “biting off more than I can chew.”

The good news is that most mistakes are not fatal. Although at the moment you may be embarrassed beyond words at something foolish that you did, chances are it will soon be forgotten- at least by others. You have to give yourself the same privilege and put it behind you.

Ralph Sockman told the story of  two men standing on the edge of Niagara Falls on a cold wintry day watching as birds swooped down to get a drink. As the birds would dive, tiny drops of ice would form on their wings. Each return trip added more ice to their tiny bodies until some became too heavy to fly and would drop over the falls to their death. In like manner failure to see and admit an error can have serious consequences. Many mistakes can be easily corrected but first you have to recognize them.

James Joyce tells us that “mistakes can be the portals of discovery.” You take a wrong turn and you find a new scenic route to a destination that you would not have known if you had not made that mistake. You misread the recipe but the result is pleasing because you put the “wrong” ingredient into the mix. You try something and it does not turn out the way you wanted but that mistake enables you to figure out a better way to accomplish your goal. It is possible to learn from your mistakes.

Some of our mistakes cause harm either to our self or to someone else. If the injury is self inflicted, then we have to accept the consequence knowing that we can survive the damage. When our mistakes cause pain or difficulty for others, it is important to admit our misdeed or misspoken words. Healing and forgiveness are then possible but they must be actively pursued.

When “mistakes” are immoral or unethical behavior, we call them “sin.”  Susannah Wesley helped her young son John understand the difference between “mistakes” and “sins.”  She made the distinction this way: “Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, and takes off the relish of spiritual things–that to you is sin.”

But there is good news for sinful “mistakes.” “If we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them— (Jesus) will forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing” (I John 1:9). We can be assured that Christ knows all our mistakes and sins. Still He loves us and forgives us.

That is the Good News about mistakes.

Jamie Jenkins

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