I heard the crash.
It almost sounded like a gunshot.
I knew something had broken. Possibly a window. Possibly worse.
Silas was outside and my mother’s intuition knew that it wasn’t good. I immediately went to see what had happened… even though I was a little scared to see what it was.
He met me at the bottom of the stairs, before I had a chance to investigate. His head was down, his voice quivering, “Mom, it’s really b-a-d.”
I could tell he was really upset. Shame was written all over his face.
He had done something bad and he felt terrible about it.
He pointed to the large window above our front door and I saw the big hole his baseball had left.
Instead of frustration, I instantly felt compassion. It had been an accident. He had been throwing his baseball against the garage door and it had ricocheted off the door and hit the window and busted right through it.
Was he throwing it too close to the window? Possibly. Was he being a little careless? Maybe.
But he knew that he had caused damage and he felt so upset about it. He wanted to make it right, he was extremely apologetic, and felt very repentant over his actions.
This was not the time for harsh words or lectures. Instead, I wrapped my arms around him and told him that I loved him, that I wasn’t upset with him, and that it could easily be fixed.
I talked to him about how I was grateful no one had gotten hurt, I was glad it was our window, and how this would be a reminder to be more careful with baseballs in the future.
He still looked scared and upset, so I asked him, “Want to know what I did when I was 17?” And then I proceeded to tell him the story of when I accidentally crashed our family’s van into the front of the garage — permanently damaging some of the brick and requiring a lot of creativity by my dad to patch up the area with extra trim.
I was upset at myself for months over that accident. I replayed it over and over in my head again — wishing I wouldn’t have been careless, wishing my reflexes would have kicked in faster, wishing I just wouldn’t have been driving that day. It was very embarrassing — especially since I felt I was old enough that I shouldn’t have made a dumb mistake like that.
But last week, when Silas broke the front window, I was grateful for that seemingly “dumb” mistake. It gave me the ability to be more compassionate with my son and to remember the shame I felt over a careless action.
Earlier this week, I shared the story in our Financial Peace University class (we just started facilitating the course with a small group of friends). One of the class participants was sharing how they were so frustrated with themselves over some “stupid” financial mistakes they had made. They wished they could go back and re-do the last few years and not make the same decisions.
I encouraged this individual by reminding them of three things:
- We all make mistakes. Mistakes don’t make us failures; they make us human. There is no such thing as a person who hasn’t experienced failure or setbacks or made mistakes that cost them in some way or another.
- Carrying guilt accomplishes nothing. There is never anything good that comes from carrying around guilt over our mistakes. Remind yourself of what the truth is when you want to beat yourself up over your failures.
- Making mistakes makes us more compassionate. Just like I was able to be more compassionate toward Silas because of my own garage door accident, so the mistakes you make will give you the ability to have more empathy and understanding toward others in your life.
So, instead of beating yourself up over the mistakes you’ve made, remember that we’re all human, replace the guilt with the truth, and look for opportunities to extend grace and kindness toward others when they make mistakes.
It will not only allow you to move on from the shame and guilt, but you never know how your compassion toward another in the midst of their own dark place might be the hope they need to keep moving forward when they want to give up.
Your turn: Tell us about a mistake you made in your life & how you’ve moved on from it in a healthy manner.