Mistakes Happen: And Then What?

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In trying to be a loving man or respectful woman, we blow it. Owning up to mistakes is never easy, but it is always the way to move forward in your marriage.

Ecclesiastes 7:20 says, “There is no one on earth who does what is right all the time and never makes a mistake.”

My daughter, Joy, gifted me at Christmas with a whole season of Gunsmoke on DVDs. As a boy, I enjoyed watching United States Marshal, Matt Dillon, and his friends Chester, Doc and Kitty, confront and defeat the bad guys in Dodge City.  Every program also taught a powerful moral principle.

In one particular episode entitled, “Mistake,” Matt Dillon misjudges a man, treats him unfairly and repeatedly challenges his honesty. As facts surface, Matt realizes he is wrong and he apologizes to the man, but he is still guilt-ridden concerning the whole, sorry affair.

Chester tries to console Matt by saying, “It was just a mistake, and anybody can make a mistake.”

“Yeah,” Matt replies, “just a mistake. But it was my mistake, and it was a bad one. I can’t wish myself out of it with a few words.”

I understand how Matt felt, and maybe you do, too. We feel horrible when we don’t live up to our own standards.

This can happen often in marriage.

To paraphrase King Solomon, author of Ecclesiastes, none of us does right all the time and everybody makes mistakes (see Ecclesiastes 7:20). I fail to love Sarah perfectly and she fails to respect me perfectly–neither of us can “wish ourselves out of it.”

So, what is there to do?

Matt’s good friend, Doc, offers him (and us) encouragement when he says, “Anybody can make a mistake, but it is a rare man who don’t try to weasel out of it.”

Doc’s grammar may be a bit lacking, but his wisdom is profound. All of us make mistakes. Instead of trying to “weasel [our] way out,” we can choose to do the loving or respectful thing. There are no more powerful words in marriage than, “I was wrong. Will you forgive me?”

Those seven words don’t create a magic wand, turning mistakes into pixie dust, but they go a long way toward helping us gain wisdom, empathy and new resolve to improve our practice of love and respect.

Prayer: Thank God for forgiving your mistakes. In trying to be a loving man or respectful woman, we blow it. Owning up to mistakes is never easy, but it is always the way to move forward. Take good care not to accuse your spouse of mistakes as you pray.

Action: When mistakes happen (and they always will), deal with them by using powerful little phrases like, “I’m sorry,” “I blew it,” “I apologize,” and “Please forgive me.”

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