There are many phrases that seem difficult to roll off of our tongues, some more so than others. One of those phrases which seems to be building up steam in its ever-increasing difficulty is, “I was wrong.”
Who likes making mistakes? I don’t. When I make mistakes, I can easily take it and internalize it, blaming myself and mentally flagellating myself. When we make mistakes, it’s hard to own them. We quickly want to shift the blame onto someone else. We don’t want to lose face because we’re afraid that someone might begin to question our worth and value or even who we are as a person.
Mistakes are part of life, though. I don’t say that in a defeatist kind of way but in a realistic, “It happens” kind of way. Think back to when you were a child and you began to do things for the first time. Did you always get it right the first time around? Did you make the transition from tricycle to bicycle with training wheels to bicycle without training wheels in one fell swoop, seamlessly, without hesitation? If you did, you’re probably an exceptional individual.
Mistakes are what make us stronger, smarter, and wiser. Hopefully, when we don’t get something right, we can go back and tweak the process to have a better and different outcome the next time around. Hopefully, we’ve got enough humility to acknowledge that we were wrong and we made a mistake.
I wonder how many relationships go south because of this one thing. I wonder how many marriages fail because spouses are unable to own the responsibility for breakdowns that occur. I wonder how many people lose their jobs because, somehow, the pecking order of responsibility led to them and no one above them was willing to acknowledge their own mistakes and responsibility. I wonder how many kids find themselves with severely diminished and tainted relationships with their parents because those parents were unwilling to own up to their own mistakes.
It’s hard to own up to mistakes, but as I’ve grown as a person, as a pastor, as a husband, as a father, and as a child of God, I’ve seen the value in it. When we find ourselves in positions of leadership, owning that responsibility becomes a model for those around us, if we fail to model it well, we shouldn’t be surprised when that model becomes a reality for all who are watching. If we do model it well, we will hopefully see the fruit of that humility translate to a culture shift.
Not too long ago, I sat down and had a conversation with someone who expressed some hurts that they felt I had caused. It was a humbling time for me. My prayer leading up to the meeting was that God hold my tongue. In the words of James 1:19-20, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” Slow to speak and become angry, quick to listen? That’s pretty difficult, yet that was my prayer.
God honored the time and I was able to listen and speak very infrequently. I learned a lot during that meeting, not the least of which is that people are people and when you cut them, intentionally or unintentionally, they bleed. Owning up to your mistakes, though, goes a long way. 1 Peter 4:8 says, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” When we genuinely love others and are willing to show them and also acknowledge our responsibility in hurts, God can help healing take place.
This is still a learning process for me. I don’t get it right all the time. It’s still hard to acknowledge responsibility, to own up to my mistakes and be humble, but I’m learning a little more every day.