Most people try to avoid making mistakes. We are taught from an early age that mistakes are unacceptable, intolerable, unprofitable, detrimental, and even fatal to our success and wellbeing. We are taught from an early age that only the perfect performances are acceptable. Movie directors spend hours cutting out the bloopers of their shows. Music producers auto-tune the flat and sharp vocals until there is perfect pitch. Editors fix all of the mistakes of the author before the book is sold on the shelf. We even have autocorrect on our “smart” phones!
For most Christians, testimonies are only testimonies when we have overcome the “test”. We would rarely think of sharing the present process of working through our mistakes in public. Christians are not normally allowed to make mistakes, let alone share their mistakes. And when they do make mistakes, and share them, they are often chastised and ostracized by the Christian Community, creating a fear of vulnerability that keeps people living in secrecy and silence, leading to a life of shame.
It is normal, then, under these conditions, when we make mistakes, to think:
“I’m not smart enough”
“I’m not talented enough”
“I’m not gifted enough”
“I’m not good enough”
“I’m not enough”
When will we ever be enough — good enough, gifted enough, talented enough, smart enough? Perfectionism, which is the sense that we will not be accepted until we are perfect, leads to performance for approval. In our quest for approval, then, mistakes are not allowed. When performance is the goal, mistakes are seen as the enemy of wellbeing.
It’s a Mistake to think that Mistakes are a Mistake
The reality is that most of the most successful people in life made many mistakes before they succeeded. We might even say that the key to success is failure. Mistakes mark the pathway of achievement. Making mistakes is essential in cultivating creativity. If we are not willing to make mistakes, then we will limit the level of creativity required to impact the world around us. Creativity is the essential impetus in getting breakthrough for inventions, innovations, designs, business strategies, leadership educational curriculums, artistic expressions, counseling techniques, healing, the prophetic, and evangelism. For example:
Henry Ford failed in 5 businesses before he founded Ford Motor Company.
R.H. Macy failed in 7 businesses before he founded the Macy’s department store.
Akio Morito invented a defective rice cooker, and going bankrupt, before starting Sony.
Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard and started Traf-O-Data with Paul Allen, which failed. Their next venture was Microsoft.
Abraham Lincoln went to war as a captain and returned a private. Afterwards, he failed as a businessman, a lawyer, and was defeated in his first try for the legislature, first attempt to be nominated for congress, and the senatorial elections of 1854 and 1858, before he became the President of the United Sates.
Thomas Edison failed over 1,000 times trying to invent the light bulb. During this process, a reporter asked Edison, “How many times are you going to fail at creating the light bulb?” Thomas replied, “Son, I haven’t failed! I’ve simply discovered another way not to invent the light bulb!”
Babe Ruth is known for his longstanding record for home runs (714), but he also held the Major League record for the most strikeouts (1,330) until Mickey Mantle broke it 29 years later.
Michael Jordan, commenting on his great success as a basketball player, commented, “I have missed over 9,000 shots, lost around 300 games, and missed the last game winning shot 26 times. I have failed over and over throughout my career – that is why I’m a success.”
Someone once said, “We don’t fail when we fall. We only fail when we fail to get back up.”
The Apostle Paul provides wise counsel in Philippians 3:12-14: Not that I have already obtained all this (perfection), or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Success in life is not about how we start, it’s how we finish. Moreover, our mistakes make up an important part of our life journey. Mistakes are indicators of what needs to be adjusted and fine-tuned to prepare and propel us towards our destiny. Romans 8:28 states emphatically, “God works everything out for good…” Even our mistakes!
I’m reminded of Abraham, Moses, Samson, David, Solomon, and Peter, who all made mistakes, learned from their mistakes, and fulfilled their destiny. God even eventually redeemed Adam and Eve’s mistake. I wonder what the end story would have been for Saul, Judas, and Ananias and Sapphira if they had turned towards God’s merciful empowering grace in the midst of their mistakes? The devil condemns us in our mistakes, while God perfects us through our mistakes.
Mistakes Should be Mandatory
In our School of Supernatural Ministry, we require our students to fail 3 times before they can graduate. If someone is not failing, then it is obvious that they are not taking risk. Robert F. Kennedy once said, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can achieve greatly.” Making mistakes requires risk. Taking risk mandates mistakes — failure. Paul gave similar instruction to the leaders of the Corinthian Church when he advised them to carefully weigh/evaluate/judge each prophetic word, implying that mistakes were expected (1 Corinthians 14:29). Interestingly, Paul didn’t advise to discontinue the use of the gifts because of the potential mistakes that would inevitably be made. Rather, he hoped that everyone would prophesy (1 Corinthians 14:1,31). We must be willing to make mistakes if we are going to reach our God-given destiny as world changers and history makers. The great leaders in Scripture and history were not hindered by mistakes — they were motivated by mistakes. They refused to let mistakes derail his identity and destiny.
If we are unable to allow ourselves to be wrong, we will limit ourselves to the status quo of safe.
Mistakes Measure our Vulnerability
When we feel like we do not measure up to the performance standard for acceptance, we feel unworthy, devalued, and insignificant — Shame. Shame seduces us into secrecy and silence, disconnecting us from meaningful relationships that lead to a life of wellbeing. Shame, then, leads to hiding so that others won’t see the real me. Shame says that if someone sees the real me, with all of my faults and mistakes, then they won’t accept me. So we hide. This hiding, which started in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve sinned, prevents us from entering into vulnerability, which prevents us from experiencing true wellbeing. True wellbeing comes through connection with God and others, which comes through vulnerability — my willingness to allow you to see the real me. Thus, vulnerability is required for wellbeing. Vulnerability requires risk — allowing us, and others, to make mistakes. Religion shuns and hides from mistakes – Relationship expects and accepts mistakes. I am so thankful that God did not hide all of the mistakes people made in the Bible. It reminds me that mistakes are part of the process of learning, as well as preparing us to fulfill our destiny.
So, how vulnerable are you willing to become? I want to encourage you to try and make 3 mistakes this next week. I’m not talking about sinning on purpose! I’m talking about doing something daring that will promote wellbeing in yourself or others. For Example:
Prophesy over someone
Get a word of knowledge
Lay hands on a sick person
Share a testimony of God’s goodness
Paint a prophetic picture for someone
Share an out of the box business strategy at work
Share your feelings with someone
Take some practical risk in which you could make a mistake!
Who knows, you just might be the next Henry Ford, R.H. Macy, Akio Morito, Bill Gates, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan, or the apostle Paul