The Truth About Mistakes

Naturally, I was running late. As hard as I try to avoid it, I’m generally 5-10 minutes behind schedule, this time due at a gathering with some girlfriends at a quaint restaurant in Old Town. Thinking ahead, I knew that the parking situation could present a few challenges. (Parallel parking on Main Street in broad daylight sounds rather intimidating if you ask me.) As I approached the cafe, my heart thrilled when I saw an open diagonal parking spot. I nabbed it without hesitation and hurried into the restaurant where a few of the ladies were already seated.

We enjoyed a fabulous meal and the bliss of much-needed girl talk. When it was time to go, I exited through a back door, hoping the alley would lead me close to my gem of a parking spot. Approaching the street, I saw a car that seemed to block the alley. It wasn’t blatant, but the car was inappropriately close to the driving lane.

Yes. You guessed it. The car blocking the alley was mine. The open diagonal spot that I nearly danced about was not a parking space at all. I’d missed all the clues.

A faux pas occurs daily (at least).  Some are unavoidable, some we can skirt around, and still others are entirely preventable. God is with us through each one and even in the midst of our mistakes, we can see Him at work as He teaches, encourages, and corrects.

It’s the cause of and our reactions to our errors that classify them into four distinct categories. Each can help us see the truth about mistakes:

1) Innocent Mistakes.

These have no ill intent and happen before we have time to give them much thought. “Oh, I’m so sorry I stepped on your toe. I certainly didn’t mean to.”  Or – “Something startled me and I dropped the vase. What a messy accident.”  Innocent mistakes are generally fixed by a quick apology, sometimes by tidying up a mess, and moving on with our day. They remind us of our imperfection and need for Jesus in our lives.

2) Preventable Blunders.

My erroneous parking performance falls into this category. I didn’t mean to use an unmarked spot. The painted lines were severely faded and nearly invisible, but I should have had a better grasp of my surroundings. While I didn’t plan to park illegally, I could have avoided the situation and should have been more careful.

Fixing a preventable blunder involves accepting responsibility for our actions, learning from our mistake and working to avoid a repeat performance. An apology and request for forgiveness may be in order. We must face any consequences (i.e. a parking ticket, which was gloriously absent from my windshield) with responsibility and humility.  Such mistakes remind us that walking with God takes effort and intentionality. We need to slow down, using caution and purpose as we walk through life. And Jesus walks alongside us to help.

3) Careless Indiscretions.

These often happen when we allow our emotions to get the best of us. We act on impulse, with poor judgment and say the wrong thing or act rashly. It’s not unusual to find that our reactions lead us to unkind or embarrassing situations. Once with a car full of friends, I was parking for a Christian women’s event. The parking attendant pointed me in a strange direction and before I knew it, I barked out some sarcastic remark.  It was completely impulsive and ridiculously embarrassing.

A heartfelt apology was in order, but the situation didn’t lend itself, truly, to a great recovery. I could only work out my heart issue with the Lord.  Obviously, I haven’t forgotten it. You know these steps by heart by now: Offer an apology and request for forgiveness whenever possible.  Words are extremely difficult to undo and these circumstances should receive great care and meekness.  Careless mistakes remind us that sin crouches at our door but we must rule over it. It tries to entice us and strikes when we least expect it, but in the power of Christ, we can overcome.

4) Regrettable Choices.

We have control over our regrettable choices, whether or not we choose to recognize it.  A stressful job leads us to use repeated unkind words toward our spouse. Financial stress “makes” us withdraw from our work responsibilities because we’re so distracted. We neglect an important relationship for a myriad of reasons.  Regrettable choices are difficult to repair because our learned pattern of apologizing and asking for forgiveness is not enough. Our actions weren’t mistakes, they were choices that caused pain to others.

While we can express remorse, that’s not adequate to heal the wounds. It may take days, weeks, months, perhaps even years to reestablish trust and respect. Those two million dollar words (trust and respect) aren’t given freely, they must be earned and come with a high price and substantial sacrifice.  Without a willingness to invest in reconciliation, it will not likely come. God uses our most regrettable moments as handily as He uses the victories in our life. Through them, He often draws us nearer to Himself and never wastes a moment.

The blood of Christ covers each category of mistakes, be they choices or innocent accidents. Our most effective way to remedy each situation is to seek the Lord and His guidance and pray for His healing work of redemption.  Walking in obedience to God’s lead and working to right every wrong keeps us on the path to restoration.

Our past mistakes do not define us, and that is by God’s grace and mercy alone. The truth is that in Jesus, we are redeemed, set free, and forgiven. Praise His Holy Name!

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.  Colossians 3:1-4 (NIV)

Cathy McIntosh




The Truth About Mistakes



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