Do you beat yourself up for making mistakes? I don’t mean anything with a moral element, but simply where a decision or action proves to be unwise; those moments when despite your best intentions you want to rewind time and do it over. In the aftermath, do you find yourself using phrases like ‘I should have known better!’ or ‘How could I have been so stupid?’. Maybe you find yourself saying, ‘What were you thinking?’, or ‘Everyone will hate me’. Do you use those phrases as weapons against yourself, leaving yourself emotionally battered and bruised?
Unsurprisingly, since I’m writing that post, in the past that was definitely me! Any significant (or even insignificant) mistake made me feel like I had messed things up irredeemably. My inner judge could send me tumbling into self-hatred, and the resulting emotion was definitely not healthy.
But God has been very kind to me, and he has been showing me that mistakes are not what I thought they were. Mistakes aren’t anything to do with my identity and worth, they are in fact God’s blessings which he gives to me with a kind and gentle heart. I’m beginning to learn to think differently, and respond with expectancy and thankfulness when I make a mistake.
Here are five ways that mistakes are actually blessings:
Mistakes remind us that God is sovereign
When we make mistakes, it is an opportunity to remember that God is in control. He wasn’t surprised by our mistake; he is writing our story and he allowed the mistake to happen. He only allows what is ultimately for our good, and a mistake is an opportunity to put our faith in his promise:
“…we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” (Romans 8:28-29)
So in the aftermath of a mistake we have the opportunity to turn over the consequences of what we’ve done into his hands, and trust him to redeem them and turn them into blessings. Praise God, he does. Redeeming human mistakes is his speciality!
Mistakes are often new wisdom in disguise
When we make a mistake, it’s often the consequence of not having had the wisdom we needed at the time. However, that very mistake means that we now have the opportunity to gain the wisdom we wished we’d had. And that’s good!
“Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you;
love her, and she will watch over you.” (Proverbs 4:6)
In the aftermath of a mistake we have a choice: to forsake the wisdom offered to us, or to love it and embrace it? I’ve actually taken to writing down the wisdom that I’ve learned from a mistake. Once the dust has settled, that can be a really joyful moment. It’s the moment that I realise I’ve made another step along the path that God is taking me on, and I’m gaining wisdom that will be a blessing to me for many years to come.
Mistakes are often opportunities for creativity & learning
When we make mistakes we often have to come up with creative solutions to the problems we’ve created. We have to think laterally. I don’t know about you, but when I’m able to shut off the internal telling-off and disappointment in myself, I actually find the creativity fun. Not only that, but thinking laterally can lead us into whole new ways of doing things that we wouldn’t have otherwise thought of, and we sometimes find ourselves learning new things.
Mistakes remind us that we’re human
This is a big picture blessing. Making a mistake tells me that I’m not God. Humans have limitations. We don’t know everything. We aren’t perfect in our information processing and decision-making. We are affected by tiredness, hunger and hormones. It’s good to be reminded of that. When we have everything ‘under control’, we are tempted to think we actually are in control, and so we try to live independent lives, separate from the God we actually need. When I need a mistake, then it’s an opportunity to recognise God as God.
It can also teach me how to live my life as the human being God created me to be. I have made so many mistakes over the years taking on things that do not fit me as a person. They have drained me and left me exhausted. It’s those mistakes that have taught me what kind of life God may have built me for, and equally what kind of life he hasn’t.
Repeated mistakes can signpost a need for change
When mistakes keep happening taking a breath and stepping back can reveal hidden problems. I can give you a very practical example of this. It’s a work example, and it’s a mistake that potentially could have had a big impact: I managed to delete a whole staff profile off our system and there was no easy way to get the profiles back. My mistake could potentially completely snarled up our whole tutorial booking system, and I did it twice! Not great. So I can either believe that I’m ‘stupid’, or there’s something more going on.
Praise God, my workplace is an amazing place to make mistakes in. There’s genuinely a no blame culture, and there is always a positive ‘so how are we going to fix it?’ response, which is such a blessing. However, in this case, the double-mistake indicated a deeper problem. It was simply too easy to do by mistake! So after a chat with my boss, I got on the phone to the developers, and the next system update should make that mistake much more difficult to do. A bit of reflection actually means that my wider workplace has been blessed.
Mistakes really are blessings!
So that’s a few of the ways that God has been transforming my responses to making a mistake. It’s slowly becoming more of a reflex, and the old narratives of the inner judge are beginning to be shut down much more quickly. It’s a journey, and I’m sure God has much more to teach me about mistakes before my time is up!
What blessings have you seen come out of your mistakes? How do you view your mistakes as positive blessings from the Lord?