In Others’ Words: Pardon, My Mistake

Using a pencil to erase a mistake on a sheet of white paper.

 

When I was I was in elementary school, I wrote reports. Remember those? The teacher would assign you to write about a certain country — the food they ate, the clothes they wore … occupations … traditions … whatever.

I would do my research. Collect my facts on those little lined white index cards. And then, I’d begin writing my paper. Nice and neat.

But no matter how carefully I formed my letters and spaced my words and sentences, I always made a mistake somewhere on that paper. I ruined it. And I would want to tear it up. Start all over again.

And that’s when my mom would step in, take the discarded pen in her hand, and turn my misspelled word or my misshaped letter into a flower. Yes, a flower. The mistake? Gone.

Let’s face it: life doesn’t come with a mistake-free guarantee. And there’s no way to shred up words we shouldn’t have said or choices we shouldn’t have made.

But we can transform a mistake.

How? Sometimes by owning up and admitting we said or did something wrong — not in a “let’s put a flower on this and cover it up” kind of way. But honestly. Genuinely.

Sometimes the transformation happens when our words or actions are bathed in God’s lavish grace and we experience forgiveness.

Mistakes happen. But they don’t have to haunt us.

In Your Words: How have you turned a mistake into something good?

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Mistakes happen but they don’t have to haunt us Click to Tweet

 

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17 Comments

  1. April 16, 2014, 6:12 am   /  Reply

    You want me to choose 1 mistake and tell you how God made something good from it? ROTF. That would be like asking me to choose one thing from a smorgasbord. But I’ll try. Hmmmmmmmmmm. How about the time…no, Let’s see. Probably the best one is…no, that’s too personal. Give me a minute. Okay, I’ll choose the one that has made the most impact on others.

    I became a teenage mother at 17. Dropped out of school in the 11 grade 1 credit shy of having enough to graduate. Sent me on a different path than the one God had chosen for me. But, 40 years later, God used that mistake to make a difference. I began speaking to teens about the choices they make and how one choice changed my life. I talked about how a wrong choice can be turned around. If I was in a Christian school, I talked about how God changed me. If I was in a public school, I still talked about how God change me. There were many girls who thanked me for helping them to see they didn’t have to go down the same path. My time working with teens was some of the most rewarding years of my life.

  2. April 16, 2014, 6:17 am   /  Reply

    Pat: From the day I met you, I admired you for so, so many reasons. One of them was your work with teens. Now I know the reason why you chose to invest your life in the lives of teens … and oh! how you’ve turn one mistake into something so, so good that rippled out into countless lives.

    You’re an amazing woman, my friend.

  3. April 16, 2014, 6:48 am   /  Reply

    Great post, Beth, and it is so nice to see your name pop up in the Inbox!

    In 2007 I left a good job and promising career at Texas Tech University to take a job at a small college that was just beginning a program in my field. I wanted the atmosphere of a small school, the challenge of growing a program, and I loved the geographical location.

    I was warned by my then-department chair – “Don’t do it.” I didn’t listen, and four years later my career was in ruins. (I can’t talk about the reasons, but I did file suit against the school, and they settled out of court.)

    So, yeah, mistake.

    But a few months after the axe fell, Barbara and I were at Wal-Mart. on a Saturday…that day the local animal shelter had brought out a few dogs for potential adopters.

    There were two sleek red puppies in a crate, sharing a toy. I asked about them, and was startled to hear that they’d been brought out for the last three weeks, and no one had shown interest. They were scheduled to be killed the next Tuesday. I hate the word ‘euthanized’. Makes a tragedy sound like a virtue.

    Well, NO. That innocence shown in the shared toy and the happy eyes was not going to the landfill. Josie and Reebok are sleeping fifteen feet away, as I write this.

    Thus a direct result of my mistake.

    It was worth it.

  4. April 16, 2014, 6:58 am   /  Reply

    Oh, Andrew, I love hearing the “how it all began” story behind your rescue mission for all your dogs.
    Mistakes can be redirections … bends in the road … turned into something good, something better.
    Which reminds of how I broke of an engagement, and how everyone told me I was c-r-a-z-y. And then about a month later, I met this guy named Rob Vogt.
    Oh, yeah. So, so much better than the mistake I would have made.

  5. April 16, 2014, 7:14 am   /  Reply

    A flower? Great. Irish monks handcopying and finishing the Book of Kells in 735 AD took dropped ink spots, wrong letters, other errors and transformed them into twining vines, flying birds, and, yes, lovely long-stemmed flowers. It’s one of my favorite things to see in Trinity College Dublin each time I go. Redemption every time and the great process seeing the master’s final design.

  6. April 16, 2014, 7:21 am   /  Reply

    Oh, Beth. Wow. To pick one…. Hmmm. I’m kind of an expert at mistakes. Fortunately, I have always felt very strongly the blessing of a “loving Father” kind of God. Feels real. Knowing I will stumble, but always having hands nearby to steady me.

    What to share… I think, admitting to my children(and husband) when I was grumpy or short with them because I’d had a stressful day at work–allowing them to see my struggles with certain things like that, was a good thing. Sharing the feeling that we’re not expected to be perfect–just keep trying to improve. Learn. Grow.

    And, being an artist–another blessing–all those “happy accidents” artists make … great practice learning from something that wasn’t quite what you”d planned. “Happy accidents” seen to happen with my plot outlines, too. How about you?

    • April 16, 2014, 3:33 pm   /  Reply

      Anne:
      I so appreciate your perspective (again) as an artist about “happy accidents” and learning from something that you hadn’t planned.

  7. April 16, 2014, 7:56 am   /  Reply

    Love your insights, Dee. I always do. And yes, it is an artistic symbol of God’s redemption.

  8. April 16, 2014, 8:31 am   /  Reply

    Mistakes. I could fill a book with all the mistakes I’ve made. I come face to face with my own pride in some of my interactions with my boys. I assume I know why they did something. And, rather than hearing them out, listening for the whole story, I move forward on my assumption. Yeah, we probably all know what ASSUME means…..

    I sometimes crush a spirit before I realize the mistake I’ve made in assuming rather than listening. I have to ask for forgiveness. The beauty of the mistake comes when two arms wrap around me in a hug of forgiveness. Hopefully, my guys will learn from my mistakes and make different ones as they grow up. 🙂

    • April 16, 2014, 3:34 pm   /  Reply

      Ah, yes, Jeanne. I’ve learned more about forgiveness from my children than from anyone else in the world. Anyone.

  9. Susan Tuttle
    April 16, 2014, 10:18 am   /  Reply

    Okay, first I have to say how beautiful your new place is here:) I only had access by phone on Monday, so today I get to glimpse the full thing. Gorgeous!

    Mistakes…oh did it take me forever to learn that God grew me the most through my mistakes. LOL. I still hate making them though.

    • April 16, 2014, 3:34 pm   /  Reply

      I’m with you, Susan! I hate making mistakes — but oh! how God has changed me, matured me, through them!

  10. April 16, 2014, 12:07 pm   /  Reply

    Beth, my current WIP deals with mistakes and how you can’t fix them on your own. You need God’s help. I’m sure the journey of writing this one will help instill this fact even more clearly in my own mind. The stories I write are generally used by God to teach me something. I’m excited to see the different lessons he has in store for me with this one.

    Blessings,
    Andrea

    Proofreader/Writer
    writingtoinspire.blogspot.com

    • April 16, 2014, 3:35 pm   /  Reply

      What a great theme to weave through your WIP, Andrea!

      • April 18, 2014, 10:04 am   /  Reply

        Thanks, Beth! It’s great to hear that. Sometimes it’s hard to know if readers will connect with the theme of my stories. Then I see how God’s touching me through it. If he lets me connect with it, surely he’ll let others connect with it as well.

  11. April 17, 2014, 10:19 am   /  Reply

    Beautiful, Beth. I always draw hearts over my mistakes on paper. My biggest mistake in life was when I discovered I would be enduring infertility … my mistake? Believing that “having a family” was my childhood dream. Earnestly seeking God through the whole ordeal led me to realize that “knowing God” was my real childhood dream! And I have two beautiful girls through adoption today. Glory, glory!

    • April 17, 2014, 4:12 pm   /  Reply

      Thank you for sharing so beautifully, shell. <3

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