One of the hardest parts of life is admitting you were wrong about something. No one wants to say “oops” – we all want to be in control of our actions all the time, and what’s more, we want others to know that we are in control all the time.
But we still make mistakes.
This past weekend, I made a mistake, and that mistake was to forget to apply bug spray to the exposed parts of my body as I spent some time outside. Oops, now I have fifty bug bites that cover my feet and calves.
Fifty is a conservative count.
As I treated the angry, itchy red bumps that caused my feet and legs to swell, I regretted my behavior, regretted the non-decision to take action against little critters which love to bite under the cover of darkness on my back patio. I hate to admit it, but I was wrong; I hate to have to take care of fifty itchy, red bumps. But they are a consequence of my actions.
Several days from now I will brush off the incident; if anyone asks I will make light of this situation, will laugh and joke about never to forget bug spray again, but I’m telling you now: having this many bug bites sucks, no pun intended. I was stupid to have forgotten the bug spray; I take full responsibility for my actions.
As a parent one of the hardest jobs is to teach kids responsibility. We go from doing everything for our children to giving them the space they need to do things for themselves, mistakes and all. It’s hard because we get into a routine of helping or doing everything for them, and to watch them struggle or do things differently or more slowly than we can is hard to watch. But they must learn responsibility.
As a stay-at-home mom whose job of doing for my family has gotten lighter over the years, this responsibility is tough because I have the time to do things for my kids. There are certain jobs that I expect them to do that I could easily do, like unload the dishwasher, clean their rooms, or take out the garbage. But I don’t, because the kids need to learn responsibility, learn that if they don’t unload the dishwasher, the dishes will pile up and create more work, that if the garbage doesn’t get taken out we will soon have a very stinky house. Oops.
Taking responsibility for mistakes is no fun; we feel silly, like we lose face in front of others. We are taken down a notch or two. Owning mistakes humbles us, and we’d rather stand tall and proud rather than admit, chins down and eyes to the floor, that we did something wrong. We feel foolish. We don’t want to say oops. We want to say I got this; this is no problem for me.
Jesus never made a mistake, and his example and lessons are scattered throughout the New Testament. He teaches us how to live: be gentle, be merciful, love God, share the gospel, mend broken relationships, stop judging, don’t worry, and on and on (see Matthew 5:3-16, 23-24, 6:25-7:1-6). Paul teaches us to be renewed and to follow the example of Christ (see Ephesians 5:1-2). Neither tells us that we will avoid mistakes, that we should avoid the consequences of our actions. There are no promises that we are capable of lives without mistakes. In fact, we are promised that we will make mistakes (see Romans 3:23).
Sometimes we lose control, and it is a problem, and we must own our oops: admit it, humble ourselves before God and everybody, and try to do better next time.
In my case, remember the bug spray. Always remember the bug spray.
Don’t try to avoid responsibility by saying that you didn’t know about it. For God knows all hearts, and he sees you. He keeps watch over your soul, and he knows you knew! And he will judge all people according to what they have done. Proverbs 24:12 (NLT)
For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Romans 3:23 (NLT)
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:9:8-10 (NIV)