How To Bring Good Out Of Your Mistakes
When I was in college I took an internship in the training department of a federal credit union. I was so excited to jump head first into the job. I envisioned myself doing everything perfectly. However, in my first week I made a major mistake: I had forgotten to send training materials to one of our branches. My boss got a call from the branch on the day they were needed. She had me drive the materials to the branch myself.
I was pretty humiliated and felt terrible. But my boss taught me a lesson I will never forget.
She asked me to send out an apology email to those involved. She asked that I remind them that I was new, and assure them that I would take steps to prevent this from happening again. Surprisingly, I received many supportive emails back. My boss explained to me that the focus shouldn't be so much on the mistake you make, as it should be on what you do about it.
In youth ministry, and in any job, mistakes will happen. People will get disappointed. When this happens, it's incredibly difficult not to put all the focus on being hard on yourself. But when we do this, we can fail to focus on what we do after the mistake is made to make things right. Here are some helpful ways I have found to deal with mistakes and the resulting response. I'd love to hear your tips and advice, as well.
Evaluate The Backlash
When we make a mistake that affects someone else, there will always be some form of a response. The backlash from our mistakes is a natural response from those whom we inadvertently wrong. Instead of ignoring the backlash, or overreacting, we need to stop and actually address it. Evaluating ourselves is a tough thing to do. But that's exactly what we must do when someone approaches us in response to our mistakes. We have to look inward. Evaluation starts with prayer and introspection. We must ask ourselves where the truth is in the individual's response. We have to work hard to see exactly what the individual is expressing in their backlash, what emotions they are feeling. And where there is truth in their words, we need to do something about it.
An Apology Goes A Long Way
Recently, I was wronged by someone else. This individual called me out in front of other people, blaming me for something that wasn't my fault. I was embarrassed and hurt over the situation. But, the next day this person not only personally, but publicly apologized to me. I forgave that person and even gained more respect toward this indidivual for handling the mistake so humbly. It was something I have stored away for when it's my turn to set aside my pride and apologize to someone. When you own up to what you've done and make it right, it reveals strong character and a good sense of leadership. But, it sets in motion the process of healing the hurt of your mistake. As leaders, we can't be afraid to admit when we're wrong and to apologize accordingly.
Do The Work, Then Move On
After you have evaluated the situation and made it right, it's time to move on. I am someone who dwells on my mistakes and replays them over multiple times in my head. Moving on can be particularly hard for me. But just as the Lord wipes our slates clean, we should do the same for others (and for ourselves). It's important to forgive ourselves and learn from our mistakes, rather than being stuck in them.
What advice do you have for dealing with your mistakes?