Our behavior is governed by principles. Living in harmony with them brings positive consequences; violating them brings negative consequences. We are free to choose our response in any situation, but in doing so, we choose the attendant consequence. “When we pick up one end of the stick, we pick up the other.”
Undoubtedly there have been times in our lives when we have picked up what we later felt was the wrong stick. Our choices have brought consequences we would rather have lived without. If we had the choice to make over again, we would make it differently. We call these choices mistakes, and they are the second thing that merits our deeper thought.
For those filled with regret, perhaps the most needful exercise of proactivity is to realize that past mistakes are also out there in the Circle of Concern. We can’t recall them, we can’t undo them, we can’t control the consequences that came as a result.”
“The proactive approach to a mistake is to acknowledge it instantly, correct and learn from it. This literally turns a failure into a success.”
“But not to acknowledge a mistake, not to correct it and learn from it, is a mistake of a different order. It usually puts a person on a self-deceiving, self-justifying path, often involving rationalization (rational lies) to self and to others. This second mistake, this cover-up, empowers the first, giving it disproportionate importance, and causes far deeper injury to self.
It is not what others do or even our own mistakes that hurt us the most; it is our response to those things. Chasing after the poisonous snake that bites us will only drive the poison through our entire system. It is far better to take measures immediately to get the poison out.
Our response to any mistake affects the quality of the next moment. It is important to immediately admit and correct our mistakes so that they have no power over that next moment and we are empowered again.”
As I have read this again and again, different people pop into my mind. They have refused to acknowledge mistakes so often and their self-deception is so deeply rooted, that other people looking at them label them “crazy”. I have seen them and other people completely ruin their mess up their lives over and over again, and with that next decision, they do it all over again – “This time it is going to be better.” They are victims, they are lonely heroes, they are righteous pillars of truth in the midst of vast oceans of wayward folks. Whatever form their self-deception takes, the repeated conflicts, the violations of trust, the persecutions, and the “trials of faith” are all to often very clearly the result of bad decision (which were likely the result of uncorrected bad thinking.) It is so easy to see this in others. Not so much in myself.
Yet as I look back on some of the worst situations in my life, I would make different decisions. I would have acted differently with my in-laws in the days before my marriage to Steph. It was a terrible, seemingly no-win situation, and to this day I do not know what I could do to make it better or what I would do if given another chance. However, knowing the consequences of the choices I did make, I would choose differently. Maybe it would have been better, maybe worse, maybe the same. There are some principles that I wouldn’t have violated though. I would have spoken more respectfully as taught in 1 Tim 5. I would have endeavored to speak no evil as taught in Titus 3 and James 4. I would have made an effort to squelch my pride, to use contentions as an indicator of pride, and seek to act humbly and meekly, without compromising. I would have sought to protect my future wife through it all, and gone to great lengths to do that. I don’t know what this would have looked like in the end, but things would be different today. And this is just one of many situations.
Where am I deceived? Where am I not acknowledging my mistakes? It is so easy to see it in others. So much more difficult to recognize paths of self-deception, while we’re ON THE PATH! I guess this is why we are told to confess our faults one to another, to pray for one another, to love one another as ourselves, and restore one who has been overtaken in a fault. If we have deceived ourselves, we’re not going to undeceive ourselves. We need some help. May I care enough and love enough to do that for others, as uncomfortable as that might be, and be fortunate enough to have others do that for me.