It’s important in life that we learn from our mistakes—especially if you’ve made a big mistake. You need to learn from it. So spend some time analysing what went wrong. What do you need to change to make sure you won’t make this mistake again?
Maybe you need to change certain policies, or make changes in the way you work. Do what you need to do to make sure you will never make this mistake again—and as I said in Part 1, to err is human.
Forgiving yourself is a big part of this. And this can often be the hardest part—we can be so disappointed in ourselves, so angry. And there’s no fast and easy way to come to the point where we forgive ourselves. It takes a lot of time spent with God—to have him fill us with his grace so we can extend that grace to ourselves as well. I take comfort from the many stories in the Bible in which people made mistakes, but were still reinstated by God. Think of Jonah, Moses, David, Samson—God hasn’t changed and neither has his love and forgiveness.
Do you find it hard to forgive yourself for your mistakes? Too often, we punish ourselves for past mistakes, as if we could somehow ‘make up’ the wrong that we’ve done. We walk through each day with these feelings: We call ourselves losers; no good. We live chained to our past, holding on to hurts and grudges. And though no-one else may know about our secret pain, the negative emotions we feel gnaw away at our joy and satisfaction in life.
Counselors and life coaches report that the hardest person to forgive is yourself. Not the friend who back-stabbed you. Or your father who wasn’t there for you. Or even the ex who broke your heart. Why? Because you know yourself and you live with yourself every day. If you feel stuck in the rut of your past failures, try these tips for embracing forgiveness:
Talk about it. When it comes to the past, silence can be deadly. So stop pretending. Free yourself from the bondage of holding it all in. Talk about what’s tearing you apart inside. Express the emotions you feel to a counselor, mentor, or friend you can trust. Forgiveness starts with being honest and vulnerable about who you are—the good and the bad. So say what you need to say.
Be honest with yourself. If I just pretend it never happened, maybe it will all go away, we tend to think. Sounds nice—but not true. Choose to break out of denial. Be honest about how you’ve messed up and the consequences of your behaviour. Journal out the specific behaviours and actions that are causing you angst.
Accept it for what it is. As an imperfect person, you will make mistakes in life. Face it. You will hurt people sometimes. You will have regrets. It’s part of living in a less-than-perfect world. But you have a choice. Either your past will keep you in a rut of guilt and shame—or you will accept it for what it is and experience the freedom to move on and enjoy the now. Self-acceptance is critical to your emotional health—so don’t miss out.
Let go. Don’t hold on to guilt. You don’t need to justify your past actions or try to prove yourself. Letting go of the past means burying it and giving up your right to engage in self-condemnation. Forgiveness is a choice, but also a process. It’s choosing to stop hating yourself and cutting yourself down, but instead, seeing yourself as a valuable human being.
God Can Use Your Mistakes
The amazing thing is this. If you are a Christian and handed over your life to Jesus Christ, God can use your mistakes. Isn’t that wonderful? A mistake is not the end of the road—our mistakes are not obstacles to God. The God of perfection and ultimate love can take our wrong-headed, willful actions and weave them into something beautiful. Isn’t that a relief?
The Bible has some amazing stories of people who made big mistakes. But God had other plans. I think about Moses. As a young man, he had a big dream in his heart. He knew God had called him to help deliver the people of Israel. He started off great. He was passionate and enthusiastic. But one day, he saw someone mistreating one of the Israelites. And in his zeal to fulfill his purpose, he went over and killed that man. He made a mistake. His heart was right, but his actions were not right.
Someone saw him, and he had to run for his life. He ended up spending 40 years on the back side of the desert. He went through a detour. He missed Plan A, but the good news is that God had a Plan B. God didn’t say, Too bad, Moses. You blew it. You had your chance. No, and he’s not saying that to you, either! If you will stay in faith, your destiny will supersede those poor choices.
Forty years later, when God was ready for someone to deliver his people, he didn’t go to find a younger man. God didn’t go to find someone who had never made mistakes, someone with a perfect record. He went right back to Moses and said, Hey, Moses, I haven’t forgotten about you. That mistake didn’t cancel your destiny. I’m ready for you now. It’s your time. Go out and deliver my people.
God longs to give you “a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11 NASB). You’ve attempted to control your life and it hasn’t worked. You can’t undo the past, but you can change the present and the future with the Lord’s help. Surrender to God. Give him a chance to mend your broken heart and transform your life into something beautiful. Nothing you’ve said or done will shock God or repulse him.
He waits to forgive you. Apologise to those you’ve hurt and make amends to the best of your ability. Mistakes need never be final. Remember the words from Psalm 37:23-24:
If you do what the Lord wants,
he will make certain
each step you take is sure.
The Lord will hold your hand,
and if you stumble,
you still won’t fall.