This week’s quote is short and simple, yet carries a profound message:
It’s not our mistakes that define us…
It’s what we do afterward that counts the most.
Part of Being Human
Mistakes are a normal part of being human – we’re imperfect. But, we don’t have to let our mistakes define us. Nor do they have to define our future. Usually, we feel bad about the mistake, and about the hurt we might have caused others. But, when we realize we’ve made a mistake, we have a choice.
We can stay wrapped up in the guilt and bad feelings. We can beat ourselves up. We can view the mistake as some sort of “proof” that we’re bad, undeserving of love and forgiveness. We may even say things like, “See, I can’t do anything right.” But, where does that get us? We end up in a terrible cycle of self-deprecation and depression. And, if we let it go on long enough, we lose all hope. We continue to make poor choices because we feel like it doesn’t really matter anyway.
Or, we can choose to look at the mistake, examine the results of our actions, and learn from it. Then, we must leave the mistake in the past and choose a different future. We need to let go of the guilt, forgive ourselves, and ask for God’s forgiveness and guidance. We can take the lessons that we learn from our mistakes and decide how we want our future to be.
All Things Work Together For Good
Scripture tells us that God can use our mistakes, and our learning from them, for an ultimate good. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good.”
Let’s take a look at the Apostle Paul. Here was a man whose purpose in life was to persecute Christians. Remember, he was known as Saul at the time. In Acts 8:1 & 3 we read, “Saul was pleased to have had a part in the murder of Stephen…he continued to persecute the church of God, entering into houses and dragging out men and women and delivering them to prison.”
Obviously Saul was a mean, nasty, hateful man. But, in Acts 9 we read how the Lord taught Saul about his mistakes. Now, Saul had a choice:
- He could have stayed in that cycle of hate
- Once he learned how wrong he’d been, he could have let himself be overcome with guilt and depression, or
- He could change the path of his life and move forward
Of course, he chose to change his path, and he became an apostle of Christ – preaching the gospel everywhere he went. He acknowledged his imperfection and chose to look forward, not dwelling on the past.
That doesn’t mean, however, that he forgot all about what he had done. He freely acknowledged his past. In 1 Timothy 1:15 he says, “…Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of who I am chief.” And in Philippians 3:13 he writes, “My brethren, I do not consider that I have reached the goal; but this one thing I do know, forgetting those things which are behind, I strive for those things which are before me.”
These passages give us great hope. God can use all things for good. And, as Paul’s example shows, none of us have reached perfection. We will continue to make mistakes. But even our worst mistakes can be forgiven, and we can choose to take a different path going forward.
A Modern-day Example
We have modern examples, too. While doing some internet research I came across the story of a young man lost in the trappings of addiction. Hitting rock bottom, he entered into a Christ-centered rehabilitation facility. He is now clean and sober. He owns his own successful landscape company. And, more than just turning his life around, he chooses to give back – to make a difference in the lives of others. His work includes:
- Encouraging clients to donate one-month’s fee to charity instead of paying him
- Volunteering with Head Start
- Donating landscaping to the elderly and disabled
Yes, we all make mistakes, and we need to learn from them. But, they don’t have to define us. We can choose to move forward and create a better and brighter future for ourselves and those around us. In the process, we strengthen our relationship with, and move closer to, God.
Take the time to read the scripture for yourself. Pray and meditate on the verses and listen to what God has to say to you.
- Romans 8:28
- Acts 8:1 & 3
- Acts 9
- 1 Timothy 1:15
- Philippians 3:13
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