I mess up a lot. I’m hoping you can relate.
Lately I’ve been thinking about two questions related to mistakes that relate to one another. I often need reminding about the answers.
Question One: How should I handle my mistakes?
Two: What should I believe about myself based on those mistakes?
For godly sorrow produced repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world leads to death.2 Corinthians 7:10, NKJV
If there was a flow chart for mistake handling situations (see below), I think the little box with the word mistake inside of it would have arrows pointing to three possibilities:
- Brush it off as no big deal and move on.
- Consider yourself a failure for making a mistake and wallow in self-loathing.
- Admit you’ve made a mistake, confess it to God (and others when necessary), repent, and ask for forgiveness.
If you believe Jesus went to the cross for your sin, then option one – brushing it off as no big deal doesn’t really make sense, right? Because it was a big enough deal for Jesus to go to the cross for you.
With option two, if you believe Jesus went to the cross for your sin but you wallow in self-loathing because of your mistakes, once again your choice makes no sense. Yes, you’re a sinner, but Jesus has paid the price for your forgiveness.
All roads seem to point to option three then, right? We take our sin seriously – we examine our lives and turn to look at what God has asked of us. We look at what we’ve done or left undone, and we ask for forgiveness, for grace to cover us, for strength and wisdom and help to walk the line differently next time.
This is the way, as believers, we walk through a mistake and into the light of God’s goodness.
And yes… I decide to make a flow chart to think it through… so here ya go.
Once we’ve walked through this process, there’s one more step I want to point you toward this week – because this is the thing I keep needing to be reminded about.
There are different things we can believe about ourselves after we’ve made a mistake.
Guilt says “I made a mistake. I can ask for forgiveness and try to do it differently next time.”
Shame says, “I am a mistake. Something is totally wrong with me and there’s no fixing it.”
Guilt might say, “That was a mean thing you said. You should should apologize to that person and ask for forgiveness. You can handle it differently next time.”
Shame says, “You are a mean person. End of story. Bummer. Stinks to be you.”
While those might seem like small distinctions, how they play out in the real world is basically the difference between covering ourselves with fig leaves and hiding or saying “Here I am, just as I am” and letting God cover us with His forgiveness and grace.
Which narrative is running through your head these days?
I hope you can fully believe and trust that God is for you and longs to cover you, forgive you, and help you write a new chapter, no matter what the last one looked like.
So if you mess up a lot, I hope you know you’re in good company. Could you take a moment to think through how you’re handling things when you fall short? It’s what you decide to do with those mistakes that makes all the difference.