Dealing with mistakes

A Christian Science perspective.

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Daily, if not more often, we hear of mistakes – banks making unwise loans and investments, inadequate healthcare programs, and, of course, one's own mishandling of things. How we deal with these mistakes can make a big difference.

Actually, a mistake can be turned into an opportunity to express good.

A recent Monitor article reporting on the progress since the 1991 Rodney King case in Los Angeles stated, "The police department once known for beating Rodney King has resuscitated its public image in reaching out to the minority communities it once antagonized" ("In stunning reversal, LAPD goes from reviled to respected," June 24). The mistake of racial prejudice, underlying the police department's earlier approach and actions, was faced and corrected. But just dismissing bad attitudes with a careless shrug – "Oh, that's just the way life is" – leaves the door open for further and sometimes more damaging mistakes.

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The Christian Science textbook by Mary Baker Eddy states, "If mortals are not progressive, past failures will be repeated until all wrong work is effaced or rectified" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 240). Throughout Mrs. Eddy's writings, and the Bible on which they're based, it's clear that turning to God for direction helps in preventing and correcting mistakes.

Both sources speak often of the kingdom of heaven, which Mrs. Eddy described in part as "the realm of unerring, eternal, and omnipotent Mind" (Science and Health, p. 590). This unerring Mind, or God, could not lead in wrong directions or even be aware of mistakes.

Once, as I was feeling guilty over a mistake I'd made, I turned to God for insight and comfort. I don't remember what the offense was, but I'll never forget the message that came as an answer to my prayer: "Your mistake didn't change the truth that God governs all that is real." To me, this meant that my mistake hadn't caused real and eternal damage. It could be corrected because God, the ruler of the universe, does not make mistakes. By identifying myself as God's reflection or idea, I, too, was in actuality free of mistakes.

How does this apply to one's present circumstances? Since a mistake is the opposite of a correct conclusion, a first step is to refuse to accept the thought that a mistake is possible under God's government. This will reveal the actions needed to bring ourselves into harmony with that government. This may require flexibility – a willingness to recognize that what we've done needs correction. Relinquishing the error, actually reversing it, will reveal the right answer and the means for making the adjustment.

If a mistake has been based on a miscalculation of a situation, we can go back and review the details that led to the error. We can pray for, and expect to receive, insights that human reasoning may not have revealed.

This right reasoning, or scientific reasoning, is based on the scriptural assurance that God is the source of all right answers and is quoted in the Bible as saying, "I am the Lord, I change not" (Mal. 3:6).

In the light of this eternal truth of unchanging good, mistakes have no lasting influence. They must be dealt with, however, and corrections made. While we may look at a mistake and understand how it was made, there is no advantage in simply justifying errors. Great good comes from facing up to our mistakes and trying to eliminate any damage they may have caused.

Sometimes a huge mistake has been made and others hurt beyond one's ability to recompense. This is where a humble desire for forgiveness is important. Forgiving oneself for the mistake may come first. Correcting the thinking that led to the mistake will provide insights into how to make amends or to establish peace with anyone who has been wronged. The sure step is to turn to God for forgiveness. Although the immaculate God can know nothing of mistakes, our willingness to trust divine Love will bring us into accord with truth and peace.

Through prayerful listening, our thought will be lifted to realize that living in total harmony with God makes mistakes impossible. There are neither mistaken actions nor victims of mistakes. Our goal, then, should be to prove this spiritual oneness with God at all times.

As we work and pray in this direction, it's always a relief to know that mistakes cannot and have not irrevocably harmed oneself or another. This realization leads to the ultimate conclusion that rightfully dealing with mistakes results in their eventual elimination, and frees each of us from either the effects of a mistake or from lingering feelings of guilt about mistaken actions.

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