Making Peace With Your Mistakes

Stumbling comes easy to me.

When I was young, if I fell to the ground all I wanted was for no one to have noticed. I wanted to get up quickly and act like it never happened. “Nothing to see here folks, let’s all just move along.”

It didn’t usually happen that way. Usually someone (or several someones) saw it, would comment on it, and would feed my embarrassment about it. Kids are like that. Even if one of them offered to help me up it still made me feel awkward and embarrassed, maybe even more so since it called attention to me more than if I’d just gotten up on my own.

Now that I’m older I’m used to the fact that I’m going to trip or slip or lose my grip and take a tumble. I’m also grateful for people who will reach down to help me back to my feet. Their help is no longer an embarrassment to me but a blessing.

Stumbling Over Mistakes

Like catching my toe on a curb and pitching face forward to the sidewalk, I find myself stumbling over mistakes that I should be able to see coming. The Bible says this is part of life.

“We all stumble in many ways.” (James 3:2.)

Sometimes that stumbling lands right on top of a relationship, whether it is a new marriage, an old friendship, or between parents and children. The same passage in the Bible that tells us to expect stumbling also tells us:

“Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” (James 3:18.)

Mistakes come easy and land hard. Peacemaking is hard but lands easy. And even if the one who stumbled didn’t land on you, there is still a part for you to play in bringing peace to the person’s life.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2.)

This law of Christ is what James calls the royal law:

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. (James 2:8.)

Anyone you see stumbling is your neighbor, whether the person is friend or family or a stranger fallen on the road. Everyone you see stumbling is a neighbor you can care for as you’d like others to care for you.

It is good not to be alone at those times, both for yourself and for them.

Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.
(Ecclesiastes 4:9-10.)

When you stumble, do you accept the hand that reaches down to help you back up?

When you see someone stumble are you ready to reach down, perhaps even get down beside the person, to help them find their feet again?

Whether offering a hand or accepting a hand, this is where Jesus’ royal law of love is found.


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8 Responses to Making Peace With Your Mistakes

  1. Laura Droege says:

    A few random thoughts:
    1) Peacemaking is hard, so most people would rather settle for peacekeeping (and never settle anything at all.)
    2) Making peace with our mistakes requires humility; helping someone up who has fallen requires humility, too, because otherwise the helper can come across as self-righteous and holier-than-thou.
    3) I was particularly struck by the image of getting down beside the fallen person to help them up. What came to mind was a recent (December) protest in my hometown over the grand jury not indicting Wilson for shooting Michael Brown. There were photos of peaceful protesters lying on the ground. (I know this was done in several cities.) This was their way of identifying with Brown and others who had died and saying, that could be me! I couldn’t help but wonder what it might feel like for a white person to join that protest, to lie there, staring up at the sky and saying, don’t shoot. It would be humbling and frightening to experience life from that perspective (at least as much as I could as a white). While this would do nothing to bring Brown and others back to life, the physical act of identifying with those who have experienced injustice is a powerful motivator in the fight against injustice. (I know your post was about mistakes and making peace with them, so this was off-topic. But your word choice made me think of that. Feel free to edit if this is too off-topic!)

    • Tim says:

      Great points, Laura, each one. How we help others and how we accept help from them says a lot about who we are. Making peace is truly hard work, as you say. I’m glad we have the Spirit of peace in us to help us and work through us to bring reconciliation and peace.

    • Excellent thoughts, Laura. I love the one about peacekeeping not being the same as peacemaking!

  2. Jeannie says:

    These sentences really spoke to me, Tim: “Mistakes come easy and land hard. Peacemaking is hard but lands easy.” I’ve had a relationship end because peacemaking was refused (so we’re more at peacekeeping, as Laura puts it above) — but I think the attempt to make peace, even if it is rejected, has some good effect somewhere. It’s participating with Jesus in His work in this world.

    • Tim says:

      Making peace sometimes doesn’t stick with everyone involved, but it realty does still have an effect even if it’s only on the person making the attempt. This is God’s work, and even Jesus found people who refused to be at peace with him.

  3. I think one of the hardest things is to be in need of help, to pluck up the courage to ask for help, and then to be rejected or made to feel as if it’s your fault or your burden to carry. To be judged by other Christians – i.e. those whom I should be able to ask for help – is crushing. I have a specific example in mind but I don’t want to write about it. Let’s just say that my EMDR therapy brought up a whole long list of people who not only didn’t help when they should have, but often made it seem as if it was somehow my fault (and I’d spent years believing I was broken). These people were inside and outside the church, but they were repeatedly people who should have known better, people who were in positions of authority. I’m glad to have the treatment and to be able to piece things together, but I’m angry about all those who maybe weren’t actively abusive, but by their inaction were conducive (is that the right word?). That reminds me of what William Wilberforce said in his speech to parliament 200 years ago, when he told his fellow parliamentarians the realities of slavery and the brutality of the slave trade. He said, “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never again say that you did not know.”
    I stand by every word of what you’ve said, because that is the difference that Christ makes. If I have fallen to the bottom of the hill, whether by bad choices or because I was ‘pushed’, so to speak, it doesn’t matter. Grace is grace is grace and Jesus lovingly offers it to all of us (hallelujah!).
    I’m not sure I’m making much sense. I guess I’m still working things out in my own mind, but this is a great post, Tim. Thank you.

  4. Pingback: Bare Buttocks, Barren Soul | Tim's Blog – Just One Train Wreck After Another

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