Ask me about one of the bad mistakes I've made, and I'll ask you the same question. Oops, not a topic we really want to visit, is it? Most people don't want to remember mistakes, but it can be hard to shake the memory.
I was fired after eight months from the first full-time job I ever had. I just couldn't seem to do anything right. I did learn from my mistakes, but that didn't make me feel any better about getting the pink slip. While I was unemployed I went around feeling like a failure, feeling fired. And I told everyone.
"How are you," friends would say. "Oh, I'm fired" I would say. It was who I was. Fired. Thank goodness someone saw past this and hired me for a new job. I started a completely different form of employment that I'd never expected and had a happy career for many years.
Looking back on that first job, I can laugh, but at the time it was scary. I hadn't been sure what was expected of me and was always worried about making mistakes. To combat this, I began to study the Bible to help me past the fear and anxiety. I liked to read about other people who had made mistakes, and I found the Bible was full of them. Peter, the impetuous disciple of Jesus, was my favorite. He frequently seemed to speak or act without thinking first. Jesus was patient with him. Peter could be bold, such as when he declared that Jesus was the Messiah. That was a statement that could get you in a lot of trouble in those days, and Jesus valued Peter for that clear insight. But then, after Jesus was arrested, Peter denied three times that he even knew him (see Matt. 26:69-74).
After Jesus was crucified, Peter went out fishing, but he didn't catch anything. A stranger told him to throw the net on the other side of the boat, and soon it was full of fish. That stranger was Jesus, risen from the grave. Then, right there by the water, he asked Peter three times if he loved him. Lots of people have said that Jesus was giving Peter a chance to erase his three denials. Peter not only said that he did love Jesus, he went on to prove it by spending the rest of his life sharing with others all he had learned from Jesus (see John, chap. 21).
Everyone has the right to reverse a mistake. God created us to do good. It doesn't just happen, though. When I make a mistake, I find it's necessary - if sometimes painful - to examine my motives when the mistake occurred. Did I intend to hurt someone, even a little bit? If so, I have some major re-thinking to do. But thankfully, in most cases, people don't really intend to harm other people when they make mistakes. Before I was let go from that first job, I had wanted to do the right thing. If you're innocent of intent to harm, you don't have to get down on yourself.
A friend once called me in tears, saying that she had just spilled an entire cup of coffee on the telephone console where she was filling in as a receptionist. The phones stopped working for the entire company.
"Did you intentionally spill the coffee?" She said she certainly did not!
"Did you want to harm the company or did you resent having to answer their phones?"
"No, no, I love working here!"
"Then this mistake can't hurt you or the company." We talked about the fact that God doesn't punish innocence and would somehow show her how to make this all right. She calmed down and called the service agency that cared for the console. They replaced it with a newer, more efficient one and said the old console was under warranty so there would be no charge. The company gained a better console, my friend learned to keep coffee away from electronic equipment, and her boss was very understanding when she admitted what she had done and sincerely apologized.
God, not bad or good luck, is in charge of our actions and our lives. God's control is infallible and doesn't include any element of chance. When we make a mistake we can turn to Him with assurance that He will help us know how to correct and reverse it. Starting with a loving intention and listening for His guidance are a combination greater than any mistake.
Honesty is spiritual power.
Mary Baker Eddy
(founder of the Monitor)
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor