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A Proper View of Mistakes

A Proper View of Mistakes

Don and Margaret * enjoyed the visit of their daughter and her family. For their parting meal together, Margaret, a retired professional cook, prepared macaroni and cheese, a favorite meal of her two grandsons.

With everyone seated, Margaret brought in the main course and placed it in the center of the table. She raised the lid and to her dismay discovered that there was just hot cheese sauce in the bowl! Margaret had forgotten to add the main ingredient, macaroni! *

Regardless of age or experience, we all make mistakes. It could be a thoughtless word or a poorly timed action, or perhaps we simply overlooked something or let it slip our mind. Why do mistakes happen? How can we deal with them? Can they be avoided? A proper view of mistakes will help us answer these questions.


When we do something well, we gladly accept the praise and acknowledgment that we feel we deserve. When we make a mistake, even if it is unintentional or unnoticed by others, should we not similarly acknowledge our responsibility? To do so requires humility.

If we think too much of ourselves, we may well try to minimize our mistake, shift the blame, or even deny that we made it. Such a course of action usually leads to negative consequences. The problem could remain unresolved, and other people could be unjustly blamed. Even if we should succeed in passing over our mistake now, we need to keep in mind that in the long run, “each of us will render an account for himself to God.”​—Romans 14:12.

God has a realistic view of mistakes. In the book of Psalms, God is portrayed as “merciful and compassionate”; he “will not always find fault, nor will he stay resentful forever.” He knows the imperfect makeup of humans and understands our inborn frailties, “remembering that we are dust.”​—Psalm 103:8, 9, 14.

Furthermore, like a merciful father, God wants us, his children, to view mistakes as he does. (Psalm 130:3) His Word lovingly provides an abundance of counsel and guidance to help us deal with our own mistakes as well as those of others.


Often, when mistakes are made, a person spends much time and emotional energy apportioning blame or justifying what was said or done. Instead, when your words offend someone, why not simply apologize, put things right, and keep your friendship intact. Have you done something wrong and caused inconvenience or worse to yourself or somebody else? Rather than berate yourself or accuse others, why not simply do your best to correct matters? To insist that the fault lies elsewhere will almost certainly prolong unnecessary tension and allow the problem to intensify. Instead, learn, correct, and move on.

When someone else makes a mistake, however, it is very easy for us to react in a way that shows disapproval. How much better to follow the counsel of Jesus Christ when he said: “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must do to them.” (Matthew 7:12) When you make a mistake, even a trivial one, no doubt you want others to treat you with compassion or even to overlook your mistake completely. So why not strive to show the same kindness toward others?​—Ephesians 4:32.


Mistakes arise from “faulty judgment, inadequate knowledge, or inattention,” explains one dictionary. We have to admit that at one time or another, every person displays one or more of those traits. Nevertheless, mistakes will be fewer if we consider some fundamental principles in the Scriptures.

One such principle is found at Proverbs 18:13, which reads: “When anyone replies to a matter before he hears the facts, it is foolish and humiliating.” Yes, taking a few extra moments to hear things out and consider your response will surely help to prevent you from speaking rashly or reacting impulsively. The knowledge gained by paying close attention is invaluable in averting faulty judgment​—and avoiding a mistake.

Another Bible principle says: “If possible, as far as it depends on you, be peaceable with all men.” (Romans 12:18) Do your best to promote a spirit of peace and cooperation. When working with others, be considerate and respectful and endeavor to commend and encourage them. In such an atmosphere, thoughtless words and actions can easily be forgiven or overlooked, and more serious offenses can be amiably resolved or remedied.

Learn to turn the mistake itself into a positive experience. Rather than looking for some excuse for what you said or did, see this as an opportunity to develop positive qualities in yourself. Do you perhaps need to show more patience, kindness, or self-control? What about mildness, peace, and love? (Galatians 5:22, 23) At the very least, you can learn what not to do the next time. Without being irresponsible, try not to take yourself too seriously. A sense of humor can surely help to diffuse tension.


Having a proper view of mistakes will help us to cope constructively when they occur. We will be more at peace with ourselves and others. If we endeavor to learn from our mistakes, we will become wiser and more likable. We will neither become overly downhearted nor think badly of ourselves. Appreciating that others are also dealing with their mistakes will draw us closer to them. Most important, we can benefit from learning to imitate God’s love and his willingness to forgive freely.​—Colossians 3:13.

Did Margaret’s mistake, mentioned earlier, spoil the family occasion? Not at all. Everyone saw the funny side of it, especially Margaret, and enjoyed the meal​—without the macaroni! In later years, the two grandsons retold the story of that unforgettable family meal to their own children and recalled the fond memories they had of their grandparents. After all, it was only a mistake!

^ par. 2 Names have been changed.

^ par. 3 Macaroni and cheese is a dish made chiefly of cooked macaroni pasta covered with a cheese sauce.