Onetime I made a mistake about something I said in a sermon. I caught the mistake right after I said it and corrected myself. But I was noticeably embarrassed. After the service, as I greeted the members filing out the door, one of them consoled me saying, “Pastor, if we didn’t make mistakes, pencils wouldn’t have erasers.”
Everybody makes mistakes. All of us know this. To say the opposite is, in itself, a mistake.
When making mistakes, it’s important that they be dealt with. In fact, it’s a mistake if we don’t deal with them. One little mistake can lead into a bigger mistake unless it is confronted in the correct way.
On the other hand, if mistakes are not handled correctly, you can bet more will follow. Therefore, I would like to point out at least seven common mistakes when mistakes are made. By identifying these mistakes, we’ll know how to prevent them from becoming bigger mistakes.
Mistakes are made when…
1. You do not admit you made a mistake when you know you did. (Denial)
To deny you made a mistake when you know deep in your heart that you did is an unmistakable blunder. Perhaps it’s because of pride or fear or just plain stubbornness. But if you keep it bottled up inside, and do not fess up to it, you will eventually explode with denials and excuses and blames of all kinds. More on these things as we go through the list.
Biblical solution: Proverbs 28:13, “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper,
but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion,” (New American Standard Bible, NASB)
King Saul went into denial and made many mistakes when he didn’t follow God’s plan to wipe out the Amalekites for the way they mistreated Israel after they escaped from Egyptian bondage (1 Samuel 15:2; Exodus 17:8-16; Deuteronomy 25:17-19). Not only did he make the mistake of not utterly destroying the Amalekites and all their possessions, including animals, but he completely denied it altogether when Samuel the prophet confronted him. In fact he even outright lied about it, (1 Samuel 15:4-23). And then he made another mistake when he tried to rationalize his misdeed saying he only intended to keep the best of the animals as sacrifices to the LORD (vss. 15, 22).
King Saul’s dishonesty also made the nation less safe since he didn’t eliminate all of his enemies. When leaders cover up their mistakes and do not sincerely admit them as mistakes then national security can be at risk.
God said to King Solomon as well as all the leaders of Israel, “…if My people who are called by My name put away their pride and pray, and look for My face, and turn from their sinful ways, then I will hear from heaven. I will forgive their sin, and will heal their land,” (2 Chronicles 7:14, New Life Version, NLV).
King Saul’s repeated mistakes reminds me of the statement in the play, Marmion, by Sir Walter Scott, “Oh! What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive!” The sooner one confesses his mistake and clears the web, the sooner one will be on the right path to clearing one’s conscience, restoring one’s character, and healing one’s relationship with God and others.
This builds the case for the other six mistakes made when…
2. You make the mistake of calling it a mistake but it was really a sin. (Transgression)
We find that when a mistake is consciously and purposely denied, it’s really a sin. For example, when Samuel confronted King Saul about the cover up, he said to Samuel, “I have sinned; I have transgressed the command of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and listen to their voice,” (1 Samuel 15:24). The king recognized his sin. Well, sort of. Blaming the people for his disobedience did not make his “confession” all that believable (v. 21).
When he asked the prophet, “Please pardon my sin, and return with me that I may worship the Lord,” Samuel would not fall for the plea. King Saul was about to be, according to modern terms, “impeached” by God himself for the sin he’d committed. (1 Samuel 15:27-35).
You may hear persons who are caught in the act of doing something wrong, and then say, “I misspoke, or “I made a mistake.” It’s only a mistake, however, if it’s an innocent error in judgment due to misinformation or carelessness.
In reality, however, what some call a “mistake” is really a way to keep from using the word “sin.” And if someone says, “I misspoke,” it would actually be more accurate to say, “I lied.”
Sin that some soft-pedal as “mistakes” is a way of disguising problems that are far more serious and potentially damaging than people care to admit. When a person commits a crime, for example, he or she might say they made “a mistake.” But it’s really a sin since the crime breaks a moral law whether it be lying, stealing, cheating, and the like. For when one sins, one commits transgression (literally, “stepping over a boundary”) against God’s commands, whether one is conscious of it or not (Romans 1:18-25; James 4:17).
For example, King David’s adultery against Bathsheba and the consequential arrangement of her husband’s murder (2 Samuel 11) was not merely a mistake. It was a sin. And David knew it and confessed it with true repentance. When God sent Nathan the prophet to David and confronted the king with his sin, David confessed it before him and the LORD: “I have sinned against the LORD.” And God forgave him: “And Nathan said to David, ‘The LORD has taken away your sin; you shall not die,’” (2 Samuel 12:13; Psalm 51).
Nonetheless, there would still be consequences to David’s sin just as there always will be when one goes against God’s will (v. 14; Proverbs 6:12-19). But when we do sin, we have a way to deal with it according to God’s grace through Christ (Romans 6).
Mistakes are made when…
3. You mistake the mistake as something out of your control. (Blame)
It’s a mistake to think that the mistake you make is not your fault. This is the mistake of playing the blame game. I’m reminded of the character, Geraldine, played by comedian Flip Wilson, who said, “The devil made me buy this dress.” But obviously she was just casting blame for what she knew was really her own choosing. Buying that dress was not out of her control.
The blame game has been played ever since man willingly sinned by eating from the forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-21). The act was not out of Adam and Eve’s control. When God revealed his knowledge of their disobedience, the man blamed the woman and insinuated that it was God’s fault for creating the woman in the first place (v. 12). Then the woman blamed the serpent, for deceiving her (v. 13). And the serpent? Silence (vss. 14-17).
Sin entered the world, not because of a big mistake, but because of man’s sin. Period. And death for all of us has been the result ever since (Romans 5:12). Just think of it: Had Adam and Eve stayed away from that tree, they could have avoided a lot of trouble.
To avoid the mistake of thinking something is out of your control, the best thing is to know your vulnerability, stay far away from your temptations, and keep committed toward following God’s standards. James said, “But each is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own list. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deived, my beloved brethren,” (James 1:14-16).
Mistakes are made when…
4. The mistake is mistaken as a lost opportunity. (Pessimism)
When you make a mistake, you might tend to think you’ll never recover from it. The guilt is such that you convince yourself you’ve lost any opportunity to gain anything from your mistake. But the truth is, there IS every opportunity. You just have to not make the mistake of thinking negatively. You must decide to turn your pessimism into optimism.
Here are some suggestions: Ask yourself how you can learn from your mistake. As they say, “Mistakes are the stepping stones to learning.” This doesn’t mean you go around trying to make mistakes so you can learn more. Be determined not to make the same mistake again (Proverbs 26:11). After all, you’re only striving toward perfection as Jesus says to do: (Matthew 5:48). Those who do not learn from their past mistakes are bound to repeat them. Use the mistake to gain wisdom (James 1:2-4). Moreover, you can even learn wisdom from others’ mistakes so that you won’t make the same kind of mistake they made (2 Peter 2:18-22; 1 Corinthians 10:6-11).
Mistakes are made when…
5. You do not accept the fact that you’re not the only one who makes mistakes. (Self-pity)
In other words, if you can’t seem to come to terms with your mistake, it’s likely because you’re too focused on yourself. “Poor me!” you say to yourself. “I’m the biggest idiot ever born! I made the worst mistake ever!” This is feeling sorry for yourself.
When you make the mistake of getting down on yourself because you’ve made a mistake, the Bible assures each one of us, “Indeed, we ALL make many mistakes.” Get that? Apparently, we’re ALL in the same boat for making mistakes.
It goes on to say, “For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way,” (James 3:2, New Living Translation, NLT). An uncontrolled tongue leads to many mistakes. And since everyone makes mistakes, you need not feel all alone if your tongue slips now and then. But, the truth is, no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. “…but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison,” (v. 8, NLT).
So since we all naturally stumble, don’t be too hard on yourself when you mess things up. You’re not the only one. Remember: “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure,” (1 Corinthians 10:13, NLT).
Mistakes are made when…
6. You’re unwilling to forgive yourself or others who’ve made mistakes. (Unforgiving)
This is the next mistake resulting from No. 5. If you’re not going to accept the fact that you’re not the only one who makes mistakes, then naturally you’ll make the mistake of thinking that you can’t forgive yourself or, for that matter, others for their mistakes.
Forgiveness is how we’re able to relieve the pressure that comes with making mistakes.
Colossians 3:12-13 says, “And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, who has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you,” (NASB). (also, Psalm 32:5)
You can head off mistakes, and not make bigger ones when you apply the kind of virtues listed in this verse, including forgiveness. It’s based on the Lord’s forgiveness of you and I. And if you really accept his forgiveness of you, you can forgive yourself as well as others regardless of the mistake.
Mistakes are made when…
7. You think that you can’t make mistakes. (Overconfidence)
This takes us full circle. Often, the reason one will not admit a mistake (No. 1) is because one is convinced that a he or she cannot make a mistake. This is overconfidence in overdrive. There’s the attitude that mistakes are not in MY nature. There’s always a “reason” for something that happened and you’re just an innocent bystander. You’re a good person. Mistakes are the problems of others, not you. Oh, really?
The avoid this mistake, one’s attitude needs to change.
First John 1:8-10 says, “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts,” (NLT).
You can see that each of these common mistakes tend to overlap themselves in certain ways. That’s probably because one mistake is affected by another mistake and another mistake, and so on. If I’m not making a mistake, only when mistakes are corrected are you and I able to get off that cycle. And, as I humbly see it, I don’t think I’m making a mistake saying so. Am I?
Good News to YOU!
P.S. If it were not for God’s redeeming grace through His Son, there would be no way to deal with our mistakes. Here’s Unspoken presenting, “Mistakes,” http://youtu.be/m5mhB6qInVk