“Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.”
– G. K. Chesterton
I take a bit of time at the end of each year to take an honest, deep look into how the year gone by has gone. I group these together as “Mistakes” that are as positive as possible – I try to see them as stepping stones going into the new year.
As much as I know that my memorable mistakes will lead to learning opportunities that will propel me into the coming year.
I tend to have short-term memory problems with what I learned in previous years. It is important that I take a to heart the AA saying that launches the 12 Steps.
“I choose to take a fearless, moral inventory” of how things have gone, where they are now, and where I hope they will go from here.
It is easy to fall into the opposite belief of the Chesterton quote above.
We can fall into the false belief that a successful life is built on the appearance of outward success. Jesus’ hand picked mentees, the Twelve, make it clear that God sees mistakes as key elements that will lead to personal growth and spiritual health.
Why call them my “Favorite” mistakes? These are the ones that have taught me the most over the past year. Without mistakes we won’t have traction we need in order to move forward. Mistakes are the rough surface that allows us to grip the wall in front of us.
Unless we make some great mistakes, we are destined to stay stuck in the ditch we’ve built from the false belief that perfection is the goal. The only difference between a ditch and a grave is the depth of each.
We tend to run from our mistakes – treat mistakes as though they were a sign of our incompetence.
We tend to hide our mistakes from our for fear they will categorize us as incompetent or immature. If others see our mistakes that draw that conclusion they need to rethink their view of an effective life versus one that only looks successful on the surface.
These are my “Favorite” mistakes of 2015. Believe it or not I had to pare my list down in order that this post won’t become too lengthy! As you read through these a button or two might connect with you and maybe even help you see more clearly about your life.
1. I gave into the fear of making a mistake.
At times I was too careful, too conservative and concerned that mistakes would set me back instead of propelling me forward.
In spite of what we’ve heard to the contrary below is the way life usually progresses.
“The older we are, the wiser we become.”
That makes for a quotable ditty, but it’s only part of the story.
In general that motto isn’t true for the vast majority.
For most it works out more like this:
“The older people grow, the more careful they become.”
At times being careful is an appropriate way to live, but if we are stuck there we will miss out on the majority of what God has for us to live out. Even a quick read through of the four gospels and the Book of Acts makes it clear that there wasn’t a lot of care being poured into the mission they were all called to. The one time the Believers began to overly plan, God allowed a strong persecution to break out upon the Jerusalem church which caused them to head for the hills – to obey the explicit directions Jesus gave to the Twelve several times.
There’s another way to capture the overly conservative way we tend become.
“Ready, aim. Ready, aim. Ready, aim”
I call that the “Motto of the stuttering, dyslexic firing squad.” Lined up to operate as that squad but never moving in to action – never willing to take the risk of pulling the trigger. It is easy to over think, to over plan, all the while when the issue isn’t wisdom in preparation, but raw fear of failure.
Let’s just pull the trigger, regardless of ideal timing, setting, adequate preparation or not.
Careful isn’t what we need to aim for. If anything, the older we get, the more wisdom we have, thus the more we need to scatter our seeds of encouragement, wisdom and courage to younger, less experience people.
2. I was too critical of myself.
A bit of an inner glance is a good thing.
The problem for me is tuning down the “Volume” of what I see on the inside so that I don’t become fixated and frozen in place.
When I get up in the middle of the night, sometimes my mental loop plays out a scenario that is unsolvable – something that has happened or is current, but that try as we might, can’t be resolved.
Until we deal with this fear it will be difficult to stop the inner critical record that has a skip in it so it plays over and over indefinitely. That repeating voice doesn’t produce any good thing for us.
An impossible task I took on as a kid we a shot at unraveling the innards of a baseball. Beneath the leather cover of one, is a single string that goes on for dozens of yards of continuous, unbroken string. Try as you may, it’s close to impossible to unravel it and not break the string.
As hard as we try, when we try to solve the unsolvable, we only frustrate ourselves. When you get to the wall, stop banging your head. The wall isn’t going to move!
Let’s take on a life-giving motto that will help us move forward – with the strength of God – his unlimited strength.
3. I didn’t rest enough.
The busier we become the more we need to rest. The more successful the more we need to rest. I have had sleeping problems since I was a little kid. Even then I often had a truckload of thoughts flowing through my head. When one of those days happens, it is difficult to turn off the switch when bedtime comes around. I have been to two sleep clinics and have learned a few skills that have helped me sleep. On the other hand, it is difficult to flip the “Brain switch” to the off position.
This is an irony of human make up. On the outside, what seems like progress can be the opposite – more success and more great ways to solve challenges equates to less rest, far more stress and above all – a greater need to slow down.
My goal is to live an effective life for a long time. I hope to run a marathon, not a dash.
Slow it down.
Do as much of what you enjoy as possible.
4. I paid attention to the words of critical knuckleheads who judged me and my messages based on what they think versus taking the time to actually look deep enough to get to the truth.
In my book, a knucklehead is someone who forces their will and words upon others, whether those signals are accurate or not. They tend to be people who want an audience – others who are willing to listen to them, regardless of accuracy.
Not all critics are idiots, but it is also common that some speak things and make observations that are inaccurate and serve only to plant seeds of doubt in us.
When we dedicate ourselves to living lives of humility, it’s a sure bet that we will be routinely knocked down.
It is sometimes easy to give more credit to critics than they deserve. Loud and forceful does not equate to truthful. Let those people pass through your life – sometimes they bring a message that is true and helpful. Choose to not allow them to have too much sway as you move forward.
5. I tended to see an inaccurate reality – the one I hope to see as real, but that isn’t accurate yet.
I learned two new words that have been helpful to me this year – “Cognitive Dissonance.” That refers to the tendency of all of us confuse where we want to be but truthfully aren’t there – at least not yet.
The problem with cognitive dissonance is that until we can see clearly and accurately, we will not see the truth. Without the true assessment we will stay stuck.
Goals are powerful and necessary for us to succeed, yet in order for us to nail any goal, we need to be courageous enough to look into the “real” reality.
Take up old the motto your first grade teacher gave you about crossing the street. It also fits here.
“Stop. Look. Listen.”
Stop carrying the inaccurate assumptions you’ve carried about.
Look to see what is really going on – not just where you wish you were.
Listen to the invitation of God to you. Take it to the bank – he is going to send invitations your way. Pay attention to them. Expect his empowering as you walk through that door.
6. I was successful at what wasn’t true “Success.”
A chapter from the Bible that is often used at wedding ceremonies is from 1 Cor. 13. A rough version goes like this:
“Love hopes all things – love believes all things.”
Another way to phrase that is a bit easier for me to grab onto.
“Love chooses to hope the best – love chooses to believe the best.”
In a marriage or any significant relationship, it’s essential that we choose to believe and hope the best. Sometimes we must choose to interpret life together through that lens, even when we are tempted to treat others the way they “Deserve” to be treated – at least the way we see them at that moment.
This year I realized once again how vital it is that I lighten up on that lens as I look inside myself. It is difficult, maybe even impossible, to show great love to others when I don’t choose to “Believe and hope” about myself when I’ve blown it a time or two. When I’m stuck in an emotional ditch about with my self-perception, it is nearly impossible for me to flow with his love to others.
Success in life is all about love – both giving and receiving it. Success is all about choosing to love without reservation – loving in spite of evidence to the contrary.
7. I wasted energy as I wondered what the judgment of others would look like.
Does it make any difference what others think of me? We tend to think it does. Bullies aren’t just around kids these days. If you want to see bullies appear in your life, simply come up with a new idea that will call for a change in the status quo.
The way others see you will come and go – sometimes from hero to hated overnight at times. The more successful and momentous you are, the more bullies will come out of the woodwork. If you are moving forward well, chances are you are introducing some level of change to others. Even when those changes are fantastic and will change the organization for the better, bullies will come out of the woodwork to “Help” with the change. Of all that people hate, change is at the top of the list of what they see as the most hated.
The last number of years I’ve been in the school of dealing with bullies and have learned a thing or two about how to get past them. What it comes down to is the response you give back to them. With many committed bullies, your efforts to defend yourself, or even to set the record straight will fall on deaf ears. Not only is this a waste of your time, it simply empowers them to continue dishing out poison.
To grow past the bullies around you, follow the advice you’ve likely given to your own children – “Don’t worry about what others say about you. Ignore them and move on. The more you talk the worse the bullying becomes.”
To deflate the opinions and words of your bullies, practice “Acquired ignorance.” Once you realize that explaining will do not good, it’s best to keep your head down, listen and learn to not fire back in the way they have toward you and others.
The best practice you can develop is “Acquired ignorance.” Once you realize that explaining will do not good, that will not help in moving forward, to keep your head down, listen and resist the desire to fire back at them.
It is difficult to carry about an attitude of anger and resentment of a bully when you simply refuse to fire back. You will make them crazy when you resist the temptation to put them in a big time wrestling headlock, even though they jolly well deserve to be treated that way.
8. I gave into the fear of not enough provision from God – especially the fear of not enough money.
In this broken world that we inherited from our ancestors, Adam and Eve when they blew it in the Garden, fear has ruled life in this world.
All of us have various fear buttons. When one of your unique fear buttons is pressed, we tend to fall into a downward spiral.
The uttermost button for me is the fear of not enough money. This is a common fear that seems to be common. It might be part of what Paul hit on when he wrote “The love of money is the root of all evil.”
I used to think that verse was directed at the wealthy – the ones who think like the cartoon character Scrooge McDuck. He seemed to be defined entirely by his money.
I can see that might be the case with some who have a lot of money, but generally those aren’t the ones who continually ponder money and their sense that they have too little of it.
The more likely ones to love money are those who are convinced they are about to go under financially.
Those are the ones who have an out of control of the love or concern for money. They tend to be fixated on the fear of not enough money. That fear will disrupt our ability to feel safe and at peace with God.
Love for money is a cry to have the power to rule others in life and to have their will carried out, not others’.
8.5 Above all, I didn’t have enough fun this year.
I talked myself into thinking that what amounts to fun – the fun that replenishes me – can seem like a waste of time. I’ve heard so many Christian leaders in particular say that any time spent watching TV is a complete waste of time. I’ve noticed that those are the same ones who offer illustrations that are far outdated and that few they lead can relate to.
TV is today’s version of looking out a window that will allow us to see the world in an incredibly clear and (hopefully) fun way.
We need to spend adequate time doing what is restful to us. For some that might be watching TV, or going to movies, or reading novels, and so on. Others may think you are wasting time when you do what refills you. I choose to not worry about them. In many cases, other’s judgment along those lines simply make it clear they are very religious in the very worst sense of that word. That sort of religion is at the top of the list of what drives not-yet Christians away.
Usually when I am not having enough fun, I am too busy with what seems to be a good thing, but will lead me to burn out.
In other years, a version of this in my life is that I’ve been overcommitted with too many things that don’t make a difference and probably won’t even if they are accomplished.
It’s difficult to be overly busy and live in a general spirit of fun at the same time! It is the will of God that we enjoy our way through life – the life he has given us.
May you live out this year with a fresh commitment to pursue great things in 2016 – a year that will have brand new mistakes to learn from.
No matter how things work in the short run, pace yourself for the long road. A last motto to take to heart that will hopefully help propel you forward is the wisdom of William James written a century ago: