What to do when you’ve made a mistake

By Chase Smith

Recently my wife and I were at lunch with a couple from our church. They were going through a few things and wanted our prayers and guidance. We had spent almost two hours with them — eating, talking, praying, and enjoying their company.

Then it happened. As I was getting up to leave, I fell. Hard. I honestly thought the booth bench was longer and I almost toppled the next table over trying to catch my fall.

Everyone in the whole restaurant was staring at me: customers, waitresses, and kitchen staff. One man even offered his business card to me — an attorney who thought I might sue the restaurant on account of my misstep! The couple and my wife laughed so hard at me in front of everyone, and my wife continued to laugh at me the entire 15-minute car ride home.

The reality: At some point in ministry, you’re going to fail.

You’re going to make a mistake. It will be a small one and not a career-altering one. It won’t be the end of the world and you’ll do it again. You’ll preach a sermon that wasn’t Spirit led and lands on deaf ears. You’ll give counsel that leaves a member wondering why they came to you in the first place. You’ll have a great idea for a ministry that turns out to be a bonafide bomb. You’ll open your mouth and say what you really want to say, instead of seasoning your language with grace and mercy.

What happens when you think you’ve failed?

First, you breathe. Thankfully, God has all things under control and even when you do stupid things, he still will be glorified. I’ve seen God turn what I considered colossal failures into moments of Spirit-led clarity for the other person.

Second, you examine. What led to that failure? Did you pray enough for that sermon? Did you give scriptural advice during counseling? Did you let your tongue take the lead in the conversation? Most of the time you can trace a failure back to a lack of the Word and Spirit in the situation. Is that your case? If so, that’s an easy fix.

Finally, you laugh. We should not be so prideful as leaders that we can’t laugh about ourselves. Play a game with your family. Watch a funny TV show or movie. Do something to take your mind off of your failure and just laugh. Take the gospel and your calling seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously.

Remember that God is using you, a sinner, to love His people. Failures will happen. When they do, just breathe, knowing God has the situation under control. Examine yourself to see how you can prevent failures in the future. And laugh with your family while not taking yourself too seriously.

When I fell in the restaurant and the salt and pepper shakers went flying, everyone stared. It was embarrassing. The fall bruised my ego far more than my behind. Thankfully it’ll be a story for a day or two around the house, but then it’ll be forgotten.

It’s the same with your misstep. It’ll be forgotten by others much sooner than forgotten by you.


Published November 13, 2018

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Chase Smith

Chase and his wife Rebecca have six kids. He currently is serving families and individuals as a hospice chaplain. If you’d like to connect with Chase on Twitter you can find him @ChaseMSmith.