Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
People have been learning from others’ mistakes for hundreds of years. Some are more observant and aware of what others are doing and the results of their actions. Some people are more concerned about themselves and pay less attention to what works and doesn’t work for others.
Mistakes give us a chance to adapt and move on. At times, we head in the wrong direction and we just don’t know it. So making a mistake can be a learning experience to teach us about the task we’re working on—whether it’s the way we interact in a relationship or the way you’re handling customers in your business. It allows us to adapt ourselves to our environment and the people whom we interact with. To shift our thinking, our actions and our direction. Making a mistake gives us an opportunity to avoid a wall and move to another path.
Sometimes mistakes tell us that we have to move forward in a whole new direction. We just have to listen—and more importantly we have to keep walking, keep doing and keep moving forward. We need to learn from our own mistakes—some people don’t learn from their own. But when we see others’ mistakes, it can provide a helpful lesson. That’s why it’s good to have wise friends who can speak truth into your life.
I am sure you can learn from other people’s mistakes—but don’t make it too late to act. Because unfortunately, some of the lessons we learn from observing others, come too late in life to be acted upon.
Bruce Lee once stated, “Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless and add what is specifically your own.” Whether it’s the martial arts or any other area of life, we take from others and absorb what works for us. During this process, we will make mistakes, just not the same as those that first led the way. Here is the great thing about learning from others’ mistakes, you may be able to create something even greater than they did. That is the reason why second adopters, in many circumstances, tend to be more successful than ‘first adopters’.
Thomas Edison was a ‘second adopter’ when it came to creating an incandescent lightbulb. Sure, he recreated many of the same tests as others before him, so in a sense, he didn’t learn from others’ mistakes. Still, he did take the lessons of his own mistakes and became successful. Winston Churchill once said, “All men make mistakes. But only wise men learn from their mistakes”.
You can learn from people that have already travelled along the path you are following—and you can benefit from what they have learned through trial and error. It’s very easy and part of the human condition to make mistakes—sometimes serious ones. The Bible has quite a few examples of that. But God has promised to forgive us and restore us as we put our trust in him and claim forgiveness—from others and God.
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As We Own Our Mistakes, We Grow in Honesty, Integrity and Self-Respect
Do not overestimate your own strength. One of the benefits of learning from the mistakes of others is realising we could make the same errors. If we are wise, we will take necessary steps to avoid a repeat of those failures. As another saying tells us, An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. And there’s the wise words indeed from the great Apostle Paul in the Bible when he wrote, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you do not fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12).
The Bible has examples of people who made mistakes—like Moses, who was stopped from entering the Promised Land. The children of Israel were wandering and very unhappy and complaining in the Gaza desert—for 40 years. Moses was their leader but he disobeyed God. Unfortunately he did not learn from his mistakes and died before the others entered the Promised Land.
When we take responsibility for our mistakes, we grow in honesty. When we are honest we don’t have to worry about cover-ups. When we are honest we don’t have to worry about lies and remembering exactly what story we told. Honesty frees us from those barnacles and allows us to simply move on. And once we realise the positive effects that come with honesty, it makes choosing to be honest easier in the future.
So we grow in honesty, but we also grow in integrity. Integrity is doing the right thing even when it is hard. Owning our mistakes is the right thing. Now sometimes that is hard to do but when we own our mistakes we show integrity. And the more we choose integrity, just like honesty, the easier it is to make that choice time and time again. We grow in honesty, integrity, and we also grow in self-respect.
When we take responsibility for our mistakes, we gain the respect of others and we learn a life lesson that will keep us from making that mistake again. And we experience humility in our mistake—and that humility keeps our ego in check and opens the door for us to experience God. May God bless and be with you today.