Making the Most of your Mistakes
Hidden Opportunities When You’ve Messed Up Your Life
You never plan on messing up your life, it just happens. Let’s face it, caring or not, well intentioned or not, intelligent or not, we all make mistakes as we face life’s issues. Oftentimes, we judge others, and we let everyone know about it. You, of course, know we shouldn’t judge others just because they sin differently than yourself, but more often than not we do just that. You would never wish to make those mistakes again, but if you’re in the place where you’re trying to make sense of the broken pieces of your life, take heart. Mistakes can be the stepping stones toward creating a better life for ourselves and those we share life with.
There’s one major disadvantage of making mistakes, and it’s why you should never want to continue making a mess of it all: consequences. The consequences of your actions follow you long after whatever momentary benefits you experience wear off. But let’s focus on the positive: If you look back and all you see is a mess, if you look in the mirror and you see you made errors, hurt others, or caused harm, there are some truths that can benefit your life right now:
Repentance is really a good thing.
Really, don’t worry about this dragging you some lecture, but there are four basic steps about repentance that are essential in every phase of life. First, you have to recognize that you made an error. Second, if you don’t feel regret for that mistake, you can forget any gain available to you to correct the mistake. So, if you sincerely regret your misdeed/error/mistake, you will have made an essential step forward. Third, having recognized that your actions or thoughts were wrong and you sincerely regret this misdeed/error/mistake, in order to move toward making life’s mistakes forgivable, you need to resolve not to repeat the mistake. Fourth, you need to pay for whatever you have done or thought. You need to make restitution to those you harmed, and if you are unable to do so, you need to make restitution in earnest in whatever path you choose in your future. Now, that should seem fair, don’t you agree?
Recognize Your Inability to get Life Right on Your Own
It is said that the most famous sermon ever given included the words, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The idea of being poor in spirit is embracing your own brokenness … recognizing we are flawed. We don’t like to do that as humans. Our default mode is to think of ourselves as good enough, strong enough, smart enough. We know what’s right, we know what’s best, we know how to live our lives. The problem is, the depth of our wisdom is a facade, exposed by the consequences of our own actions.
Many of us can walk through an entire lifetime convinced of their own moral superiority. Humility is difficult to come by, but humility is essential, because recognizing our flaws, our humility, embracing our mistakes, being ‘poor in spirit,’ is the first step toward making life better than it is right now. Whether you got to a place of humility the easy way or the hard way, rejoice that you’re there, because humility is the first step towards making life better, both for yourself and those you share life with.
Regretting Your Mistakes Makes You Stronger
At first glance, feeling regret doesn’t seem like it is positive at all, but it is. Our society trumpets the ideal of a self-made man or woman, completely self-sufficient and not needing anyone (including God) for anything. The truth of the matter is, we’re all dependent upon others to some degree. Please hear me, I’m not advocating a welfare state in any sense. We should utilize the innate drive within us to produce and provide to care for ourselves and those around us. But we’ll never be fully self-sufficient. We need others. We need the support and help of others. We need the emotional, intellectual and physical investment of others in order to reach our full potential. If you’re self-sufficient, you’re likely to be too proud to ask God for help. If you’re broken because you’ve messed up your life, you’re much more likely to ask God for help when you desperately need it (which is constantly). Your brokenness should make you regret your brokenness, and that’s a good thing.
The Broken Ground of Your Life is Fertile Soil to Grow Something Beautiful
Every farmer or gardener knows this. If you want to grow a crop, plant a tree or sow a seed, you have to break the ground first. Go and try it yourself: go outside and lay a seed on top of the soil, and see what happens. (I’ll save you the trouble: nothing will happen). A seed can’t take root and grow into something beautiful unless the ground has been broken and tilled. Breaking something isn’t fun. In fact, it’s messy. But there it is. When you mess up your life, your life is broken. That’s easy enough to see. What’s just as true (although more difficult to see) is that the broken ground of your life is fertile soil to do something beautiful in your life.
If your life is broken, take heart: the hard part is over. Now begin (resolve) to rebuild and restore and make something more beautiful than you could possibly imagine.
Restitution Shines Brightest Against the Backdrop of Your Mistakes
Anyone who’s ever bought a diamond knows this. When you go to a diamond store, you’ll see the diamonds set against a dark backdrop, usually black cloth or velvet. Why is that? Because the jewelers know that the brilliance of the diamond shines brightest against the darkest backdrop. Your messed up life is that dark backdrop. Against that backdrop, good people want to show their mercy and grace in ways you never thought possible.
Again, it is said “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever.”
You Can Help Make Life Even Better
This is when life starts to get fun again. This is when you begin to sense a purpose to all the brokenness you’ve endured. Whether you realize it or not, you’re not alone. And as far fetched as it may sound, there’s someone worse off than you. When someone is in the valley, when they’re in that dark place, when they’re drowning in their own brokenness, you become a lifeline of hope to them. People are desperate for hope, and you can be that hope to them. It won’t take away the consequences of your actions: you still may have wronged others by judging them, or you have the burdens of divorce, or struggle with addiction, or not have custody of that child, but don’t be surprised when, as a consequence of your repentance, you may be sent a lifeline, and in turn, be a lifeline of hope to others walking through the same thing.
In a Nutshell
Never go out and intentionally mess up your life. You’ll hurt not only yourself but those you care about the most. But if you’re already there, if you’re already broken, don’t lose heart. You can make something beautiful out of the mess of your life. In the end, we’ll only regret the mistakes we didn’t go back and fix.
When you realize you’ve made a mistake in life, and you want to spend the rest of your existence at peace with yourself, you’ll want to get started as soon as possible.
You have to get clear about what you want in life. Never walk by a mistake. Fix it on the spot. Otherwise you will have set a new, lower standard for your future.