Neglecting to follow instructions can cause problems, some serious, some not so serious. A child who disregards the teacher’s instructions to “keep your hands to yourself and be quiet” while in line with his classmates on their way to the cafeteria may find himself sitting with the teacher at lunch. A student working on a science project who didn’t follow the written instructions for the project may find that her hypothesis couldn’t be proven true when she conducted her experiment. Thus, she will need to rethink the project and do it again. A person who doesn’t pay attention to his finances may find that he doesn’t have enough funds to make the car payment and thus, his credit rating may be lowered. A husband or wife who fails to follow God’s directions for their marriage may find themselves in a relationship with someone new. Their marriage may end because they didn’t put God, their spouse and family first. Each of these examples will require a form of starting over—a reassessment of what is important and a serious look at the consequences of failure. The child will start over the next day by obeying his teacher’s warnings. The science student will carefully rethink her hypothesis before attempting the experiment again. A person who fails to make the car payment will reassess his budget and spending habits. Spouses in a failed marriage will need to learn more about commitment and how God intends marriage to work. Seems simple, doesn’t it? Just follow those directions and everything will be o.k. but what happens when things aren’t o.k. and you have to start over? Starting over requires some serious rethinking and adjustment. More importantly, it requires seeking God’s directions for living all aspects of our lives.
You get a speeding ticket because the State Trooper set up a speed trap. You strike out because the umpire can’t tell the difference between a ball and a strike. You get a bad job review because the supervisor doesn’t like you. The “you” in each situation gets a negative result. But for some reason, the “you” was never at fault. Here’s a safe prediction. The future will bring more speeding tickets, more strikeouts and a job search. There is a simple explanation. If bad results are never your fault, there’s no reason to change. And the same actions will almost always bring about the same results. Let’s be honest. We don’t like to take responsibility for our mistakes. It’s almost a reflex action to look for someone else, anyone else, to blame. We do this in spite of the fact that we want to do better next time. Repeating mistakes is incredibly frustrating. A fresh start sure sounds good. Starting over requires change. The best way to bring about positive change is to own your past, take responsibility for your mistakes and figure out the actions that will bring about better results. Here’s your choice. Let your history predict your future or use your history to shape a better future. Give your future a better chance. Own your past.
“We made too many wrong mistakes.” – Yogi Berra We are all experts in mistakes. We all make them and that is really o.k. We learn from our mistakes in the areas that matter least. We repeat our mistakes in the areas that matter most. Too often, we look at our pasts and our decisions don’t even make sense to us. We end up asking, “What was I thinking?” “Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time.” – George Bernard Shaw Mistakes – too often we think of those as bad things. Once, maybe twice, might be acceptable, but repeating mistakes is the big mistake. Yet some of our best learning opportunities come from our mistakes. How do we avoid getting stuck in cycles of repeated mistakes that take our lives down the wrong path? Examination, assessment and learning lessons after making a mistake is the path that leads us to changing behavior. “And a step backward, after making a wrong turn, is a step in the right direction.” – Kurt Vonnegut So, mistakes are not bad. Learning lessons is not a hard process. The challenge is remembering our lessons, especially those that deal with the big things in our lives. Don’t waste the valuable lessons; don’t recycle errors in judgment. “Failure is instructive. The person who really thinks learns quite as much from his failures as from his successes.” – John Dewey
A popular Taylor Swift song contains these lyrics:
I keep cruising
Can’t stop, won’t stop grooving
It’s like I got this music
In my mind, saying it’s gonna be alright
Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play
And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate
Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
Shake it off, shake it off
While Taylor doesn’t have a master’s degree in theology, she does give us some sound practical advice in those words. Sometimes we simply have to let things go. The apostle Paul puts it this way in Philippians 3:13-14 “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” We are called to own our part in our circumstances and to rethink and learn from the mistakes we’ve made. And then we are called to release it by forgiving not only ourselves for our screw ups but we are to forgive those who have contributed to the failures in our lives. We are to offer it all up to God. We are to release those feelings of failure, insecurity, anger and bitterness to Him. We are called to shake it off and move forward.