Tiny public mistakes are always made, but it’s the memorable ones that sting the most.
Once the sting has dissipated, they are also the ones that become laughable sermon illustrations.
I don’t remember the sermon that my husband preached, but I do remember the sentence he said:
“It’s like when you’re grilling and you take the thongs to flip the chicken over.”
He didn’t even catch it, but went on preaching.
I caught it.
And by the soft snickering I heard in the room, I knew others had caught it too!
What do you do when your husband makes small public blunders?
1. Decide whether or not he needs to know (if he does not already).
Our husbands are not always aware of small mistakes they make. Not all mistakes need to be made known.
“Join us for a Super Bowel Chili Dinner” That was the spelling error I found late Saturday night in the already printed worship guide. Hundreds of people were about to receive an invitation to a spicy dinner that would evidently affect their bowels.
Does my telling him diffuse a situation or make something bigger than it needs to be?
I knew my husband would be more embarrassed if the bulletins had gone out. Publicly he would have laughed, but privately it would have stung.
2. Be aware of what embarrasses him.
Although the size of the blunder may be small, even tiny boo-boos, stubbed toes, and hangnails are aggravatingly painful. For my dyslexic, preacher husband a spelling error hit a delicate place. Are you specifically aware of things that embarrass your husband?
3. Be sensitive to how he will feel about it.
If he emotionally overreacts compared to the size of the mistake, be aware that there might be an underlying buried wound causing it to be more painful.
4. Communicate that you’ve got his back.
If you discern he needs to know, communicate it in a way that hears it from a place that you’re on the same team. You’ve got his back. Don’t communicate it from the place of “another thing my wife doesn’t like that I’ve done.”
5. Timing. Is. EVERYTHING.
Be aware of your husband’s rhythms. Know when he’s frustrated, consumed, or exhausted. Even though he may not say it, be aware when he doesn’t need any more church-talk. (Our rule is no church talk after 8pm).
6. Create space for him to process. –
Telling him that his mistake is “no big deal” doesn’t necessarily diminish the bigness that it may feel. Let him know, encourage him, and let him be.
7. Refrain from making it bigger than it needs to be.
What might be an issue to you might not be a big deal to him. And what might be an issue to someone else in the church who wanted you to know his mistake so you’d let him know, …well, it still doesn’t mean he needs to know.
8. Eventually laugh. It won’t be the last mistake.
A few weeks after his “thong” message, we received a package. Inside were 2 X-large thongs. Taped to them was a note that said, “For those nights when you want to grill chicken.”
Laughing before it’s time is insulting. Laughing when it’s time is medicine to the soul (and eventually a sermon illustration).
Blunders “normalize” us in the public eye.
Eventually, as we begin to take ourselves less serious, the laughing comes quicker.
Published January 13, 2014