Mistakes? Sins? So What!

              I hate to make mistakes, especially when everyone knows it.   You can imagine my chagrin a month ago when I forgot to remove my belt going through airport security.  As a result, I was subjected to “an upper torso” search, along with a testing of my hands for explosive residue.  I made a mistake, everyone knew it, and I had to face the consequences.

While you might not have experienced “an upper torso search” by a TSA agent, you’ve probably made a mistake that everyone knew about.    At the very least, you made a poor decision and ended up regretting it.  The problem is that right before we realized we were wrong, we felt like we were right.  And when we finally realized we were wrong, we thought that meant there’s something wrong with us.

In our American culture, specifically in the American school classroom, many teachers don’t require students to demonstrate their understanding of a subject in front of the class so they don’t experience embarrassment if they flub an answer.  The fear (besides the embarrassment issue) is that if students are allowed to follow a wrong strategy in their problem solving, they will learn the material incorrectly.  Contrast this approach with Japan, for example, where students work out math problems in front of the class.  If a student errs when adding fractions by adding the denominators, Japanese teachers are encouraged to let them experience the consequences and see why that doesn’t produce the right answer.  The focus is on students understanding the underlying concept rather than simply understanding how to get a right answer (Alina Tugend, Better By Mistake, 193).

When we make mistakes in life, far too often we’re more concerned about our reputation than we are with learning the underlying assumption that guided us to make a bad decision.  In our rush to be right, we miss learning from being wrong.  We end up “(revering) results while diminishing the value of the process” (213).

Even more importantly, we tend to confuse sin with bad actions and repentance with not doing bad actions.  Sin is actually a wrong view of the Triune God, where the Father, Son, and Spirit are seen as a Lawgiver/Judge/Executioner instead of a Loving Father/Elder Brother/Comforter.  Repentance is really changing one’s mind toward the Triune God, where a person realizes and embraces the love and acceptance that is already theirs through Jesus Christ, rather than quitting a specific bad habit.

What the Father, Son, and Spirit hate is sin (our wrong view of the Trinity) because it makes us feel like we are separated from them, not because we’ve violated a list of rules.  The Triune God wants us to repent by changing our minds and accepting the love and relationship they want to share with us so much.

I learned the value of following instructions because of my run-in with the TSA.  I also learned that being wrong and a little embarrassed really didn’t matter that much.     Making mistakes and being wrong are fundamental to our humanity. Being wrong sometimes opens up other possibilities to us, ones that we never considered when we were certain we were right.  If the Triune God isn’t bothered when we mess up, why should we care?   By being unafraid to be wrong, we invite mystery, possibility, and humility into our lives.

~by Nan Kuhlman

2 comments so far

  1. Jane Hinrichs on

    Good article Nan…I like it! If we all would get over our self consciousness, we would be better off. We could be more open, more caring with each other, be more open about faith even! I think some of our problem is pride but then that pride is rooted in insecurity and maybe some people-pleasing junk. There is power in us being wholly honest and vulnerable about ourselves in front of others — when we are free to just be right or wrong. When we can do that we can have true fellowship with each other too. I am part of a very loving church but people don’t open up. Because of this our fellowship cannot go beyond the surface and our ability to help each other and carry each other’s burdens is very limited.

    But it does make a difference when one person is honest and open and vulnerable about her strengths and weaknesses. And that can be catching — give other other people the courage to be open too. I choose today to be that person! Thanks Nan!

    • Nan Kuhlman on

      Jane,

      I agree that only by being open and authentic (and human!) can we have the loving relationships with others that the Triune God intended. Thanks for catching the vision!


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