by Edie Melson
I don’t like making mistakes. And since I have strong perfectionist tendencies, my natural approach is to dwell on the things I’ve done wrong. A little bit of analyzing is a good thing—identifying the root cause can help me not make the same mistake again. But I often get stuck in this phase, mired in a pit of self-recrimination and regret. That is not a good thing, and I don’t believe it’s the way God wants us to handle these issues.
The result of hanging out here, ignoring God’s forgiveness and refusing to move on unencumbered, is that I carry a lot of baggage. I weigh myself down with regret instead of forgiveness. This excess weight robs me of joy and of the strength to move into the paths God has for me now.
And I’ve found that by focusing on what I’ve done wrong, I can sometimes unintentionally multiply the issue by repeating the same mistakes over and over again.
I learned the lesson of where to focus when my daddy taught me how to drive a car. He was an infinitely patient man, but I was a challenging pupil. The one thing I couldn’t seem to master was avoiding obstacles. Every pothole, rock or curb seemed to draw my tires like a magnet.
Finally, in a burst of inspiration, Daddy hit on the problem. He told me to stop focusing on the obstacle and instead keep my attention trained on the path around the obstacle. It worked. The instant I stopped focusing on the stumbling block, I instinctively guided the tires around what was in my way.
Dwelling on past mistakes can also lead us into a dangerous place—the world of what-if. This is definitely not a place for Christ-followers to hang out. The world of what-if is populated with everything wrong I’ve ever done.
Sometimes I’ve visited this place when I’ve hurt someone I care about; other times, it was a mistake that changed circumstances. Whatever the reason for visiting, it’s a land full of ugly make-believe and void of God’s forgiveness. I’m far too familiar with the haunted valleys and maze of punishing practices. I now recognize them for their futility, and yet I have to fight following the path there when I face failure and regret.
I have learned to recognize this place and spend less time there these days. But it’s taken years to understand that the path out of that place is a journey of faith.
The truth is that God wants us to live in the fullness of His forgiveness and experience joy even when we haven’t been perfect. There are three steps I take to make sure I’m following His path when I’m recovering from past mistakes.
Steps to Move Past Mistakes
1. I ask forgiveness—from God and from anyone else I’ve hurt.
2. I rehearse the Bible verses that tell me the truth about God’s approach to forgiveness.
1 John 1:9
3. I identify any lessons I can learn from the past and then move on.
Hanging on to past mistakes can rob us of joy. It can lead to burn-out, exhaustion (physical and mental) and worst of all, depression. Whenever I see that I’m overloaded, I come back to these steps and hand over all the weight to Jesus. I exchange what I thought I wanted for what He knows I need. And it’s always a more manageable load.
Edie Melson—author, blogger and speaker—has a passion to help those who are struggling to find the God-given strength they need to triumph through difficult (challenging) circumstances. She writes about God’s joy in her Soul Care Series and her latest contribution to the Faith-Pump Compilation. Connect with her at www.EdieMelson.com.