Mistakes happen to all of us. There are times when we are absolutely, undeniably wrong. What then? That’s a serious question because our response after a mistake may determine whether we recover or not from it.
Denying mistakes, covering them up, or blaming someone else for them are common, yet erroneous, ineffective, and even harmful ways of dealing with mistakes. Let’s consider what actually needs to happen when a mistake is made.
First, we must acknowledge the mistake. How many recoveries are prolonged or have never happened simply because someone refused to acknowledge that a mistake occurred? We must be open-minded to our own short-comings. We must regard the mistake as a mistake and recognize that it was we who made it. Like Isaiah, we need one of those woe is me moments when we realize who is actually at fault (Isa. 6:5). This is the part of the process that is personal. It is that private moment of clarity.
At least, this is how it works much of the time. For those stubborn souls who have distanced themselves from reality, God may employ a more drastic, bold confrontation. After David sinned with Bathsheba, God sent the prophet Nathan to bluntly declare Thou art the man (II Sam. 12:1, 7). Let me add that you are better off acknowledging your mistake before it comes to this!
Second, we must admit the mistake. There is a difference between acknowledging and admitting. Acknowledgment is often silent, internal, and mental. Acknowledgment doesn’t necessarily mean that anything is going to happen. There are a lot of people who see their mistakes, but proceed to do nothing about them! Admitting a mistake goes beyond merely seeing that a mistake was made. An admission is vocal and external. It involves expression. This is the part of the process that is public.
Most of the time, you have an audience of One. Following that disastrous mistake with Bathsheba, David prayed and said [a]gainst thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight (Ps. 51:4a).
However, there are times when you need to admit your mistakes to others (spouse, children, friends, co-workers, etc.). Remember that repair starts with a willingness to be vocal and penitent about mistakes!
Truthfully, I wish that we didn’t have to deal with mistakes. The fact is that we do, so let’s be determined to deal with them. Don’t deny mistakes, cover them up, or blame someone else for them. Instead, acknowledge them. Admit them. Most of all, be committed to overcoming them!