Moving forward from mistakes

When we’ve made a mistake, is there a path out of rumination and regret? We can turn to God to help us move forward in ways that uplift and redeem.

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Many who have made a mistake would probably love to go back in time to correct it. This might be one reason why movies such as “Groundhog Day,” in which the protagonist relives the same day over and over again until he gets it right, are popular.

Is it inevitable that we make mistakes and learn the same lesson countless times? Actually, the model to strive for is to learn each life lesson in as few iterations as possible.

Thank goodness, through prayer, mistakes and the regrets that can come with them can certainly be turned around and end up really strengthening us. It’s even possible to begin to love these valuable learning opportunities. In the Bible, Paul recognized this: “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (II Corinthians 12:10).

This is not to say that the only way to learn and grow is through difficult experiences and regrets. Listening to and obeying God helps us avoid big life errors. But if they have occurred, we can take them as opportunities to let God’s power and love help us learn, grow, and redeem mistakes, failures, and wrongs. Through prayer, we can exchange a personal sense of ego for a new focus – a humble focus on what is effective, good, and correct according to God’s loving laws.

Prayer, Christian Science teaches, isn’t a process in which we change a seriously flawed mortal into a moderately or lightly flawed mortal. Prayer to better understand God, good, reveals something quite beautiful: that God’s creation – which includes all of us – isn’t mortal or flawed at all. God’s children aren’t the offspring of material people or limited by material history, good or bad. We are designed to show forth the nature of God, divine Spirit.

That means that in actuality, we are immortal and spiritual, the expression of God’s love, intelligence, goodness, and purity. It’s these kinds of qualities, not a mortal concept of ourselves, that are truly represented in us.

Realizing this spiritual reality, even a little, provides a path on which we can correct wrongs and permanently move forward from repeated self-criticism and regret over a mistake.

“Choose you this day whom ye will serve,” says the Bible (Joshua 24:15). This is such useful guidance, and can specifically relate to our attitude and approach to overcoming mistakes. The moment we choose to allow our genuine, good selfhood, which is sustained by God, to infuse our thoughts and actions, then we know that we’re moving upward.

The Bible contains examples of people who made terrible mistakes but, through growing spiritual understanding, were changed for the better and went on to do wonderful things that blessed countless others. We, too, can find that mistakes don’t need to eliminate the possibility of future goodness. Rather, they can help us to turn the corner and choose God so much more quickly, to improve ourselves, to acknowledge and be so grateful for progress, to keep our eyes looking forward, to let an honest desire to be useful to God motivate us.

We may encounter some rough places in life, some things we wish we could redo. But we can take heart. “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (II Corinthians 4:17). Through humbly turning to God for the strength to recognize who we really are as His cherished creation, mistakes and regrets can be faced and redeemed in ways that give us handholds to help us go higher in the future.

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