Mistakes can be valuable and are forgivable


Faith & Reflection

I had the opportunity to share coffee and cupcakes with a seniors group recently. When someone asked the time, I said it was 2:30 and another immediately corrected me telling me I was an hour off. It was indeed 3:30. I admitted that I had made a mistake and quipped, “I made one last week, too.” We all had a bit of a chuckle, but the episode left me pondering the matter of mistakes.

Mistakes can range from comical to catastrophic and innocuous to fatal. For illustrative purposes, there is a humorous account of a drummer in a parade in Ventura, Calif. He repeatedly tossed his drumstick high in the air and then deftly caught it — until it hit two 4,000-volt power lines. Power was knocked out over a 10-block area and put the radio station that was covering the parade off the air.

An example of a catastrophic mistake is when a father tried to race a train at a railway crossing, but he misjudged the speed of the train. He survived the ensuing crash, but his wife and two young daughters were killed instantly.

Mistakes aren’t usually planned — that’s why we call them mistakes. And mistakes are universal; admit it or not, we’ve all made them and we’ll make some more! Moreover, the unintentional nature of mistakes does not alter the fact that they typically hurt either yourself and/or others.

In analyzing some of my own mistakes, I’ve identified three primary causes. My three biggies are speaking without thinking things through carefully enough, responding or reacting with only partial information and making decisions when I am overwhelmed, fatigued or during periods of emotional stress.

Mistakes can be valuable, however. Someone said that there is no point in making a mistake if we cannot learn from it. The test for whether we have actually learned from a mistake or not is indicated by whether we repeat it. In fact, a repetitive mistake is no longer a mistake, but an unwise and deliberate pattern.

But there is good news … (especially for those who have trouble forgiving/forgetting their own mistakes). Mistakes, while not always synonymous with sin, sometimes do meet the biblical definition for sin. But there’s not one of them that cannot be forgiven. Isaiah 1:18 says, “Come now, let us settle the matter, says the LORD. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”

“Since nothing we intend is ever faultless, and nothing we attempt ever without error, and nothing we achieve without some measure of finitude and fallibility we call humanness, we are saved  by forgiveness.” – David Augsburger

Pastor Ross Helgeton is Senior Pastor at Erskine Evangelical Free Church.