When was the last time you blew it? I don’t mean a little mistake or a small oversight; I mean the kind of hair-raising, heart-stopping, mind-numbing blunder that makes you want to curl up fetal-style in the corner. I’ve had a few of those recently.
I serve as the vice-president of the Dallas Theological Seminary women’s fellowship group. As such, I schedule a trending-topic-driven luncheon on the fourth Tuesday of every month.
This month, I told our speaker the wrong date. So I spent six hours one day frantically scrambling to set things right, causing headaches for everyone involved.
I also intern as a teaching assistant for one of my professors. And I told the class that one of their assignments wasn’t due just yet. The only problem is that it was.
More frantic scrambling. More headaches. More egg to clean off my face at a place where I want to impress.
As class began, the students passed out copies of their papers for peer review. My stomach plummeted as I realized I had done it again. One woman Skypes in from out-of-state. Part of my responsibilities includes making sure she has everyone’s work, and that everyone has a printed copy of her assignment, as well.
Maintenance, we need a cleanup in aisle two.
So what does one do when they make not one, not two, but three sizable mistakes in two days?
If you’re me, you blog about your experience to hopefully save others pain and embarrassment. So here you go—failure cleanup, Rebecca-style.
Own it immediately.
Do take responsibility as soon as you realize what you’ve done. Do not offer excuses. Even if you have one. Even if you were not the only party responsible for the mistake. As one in a position of leadership in other areas of my life, I have also had to clean up after others. People tend to have far more sympathy—and more grace—when someone “falls on their sword.”
Do everything you can to fix it.
Now and then you’ll see a sign that says, “You break it, you buy it.” The same principle applies here. As soon as you spot your blunder, do everything in your power to make it right. I gave our speaker the wrong date. She had plans on the right date, so I quickly set about contacting the necessary people to see if we might change it. Fortunately, we could. We can’t always right all wrongs, but we must right the ones we can.
Implement a system to make sure the mistake doesn’t happen again.
The professor gave me grace, but I want to make sure this was a one-time-performance. To (hopefully) establish trust moving forward, I showed her that I had set two reminders—one in my calendar and one in my phone—to ensure everyone had everyone’s work. They repeat for the duration of the semester.
Discover the root cause.
Sigh. Here comes the painful part.
Everyone fumbles the ball now and then. But three sizable mistakes in two days? That calls for some reflection. Fortunately, I don’t have to dig too deep to get to the root. I have a very difficult time saying “no.” I also tend to overestimate what I can handle and how long projects will take. My schedule knows no margins. Why? Because I want to be all things to all people. I crave approval. I long to be liked. We all do, to some extent, but my need for validation, when not kept in check, gets me in trouble.
There is something else at play here, too. In ministry, we can easily confuse serving God with obeying God. God has not called me to be all things to all people—he calls me to obedience and part of obedience looks like margins, rest, and intimate fellowship with his Son through his Spirit. It also looks like presence in any given moment. I can spend time with my family and be a million mental miles away when I have too many irons in the fire. I sense the Lord telling me to pass out a few more “no’s” to make room for a better “yes” as I make decisions regarding my schedule for the next year.
And Finally, Grace
God gains no glory when we dig a pit of self-pity and refuse to crawl out. When you have owned your mistake, done everything you can to fix it; when you have implemented a system to avoid a repeat, and when you have spent time in prayer asking the Lord to reveal any blind spots that may have contributed to it, you must receive God’s grace even if it’s the only grace offered. Remember what it feels like to fail, but don’t wallow in it. Let it compel you to lavish grace upon those who will one day need it from you.
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