How to Respond to Mistakes in the Game of Life

I watched a little league game last night. It started at 8:00 p.m. and ended at 10:23 p.m. Aside from the recognition that it is almost ungodly to ask 11 year-olds to be playing at that time of night, a couple of other lessons surfaced as I sat on a hard, wood bleacher for 2 hours and 23 minutes (not that I was counting the time).

One thing I noticed is that these kids were better than when they played last year. They pitched a little more accurately. They caught the ball more often. They positioned themselves with a little more understanding of how the game is played.

The other thing I noticed is that these kids still had a lot to learn. Although improved from the previous season, they could have ended the game much sooner had their pitching been steadier. There were dropped fly balls and throws. A number of times players did not back up other players when there were potential run downs between bases.

But no one expected these kids to feel beat up about it. What they expected was for them to move on to the next play. The game didn’t stop just because a mistake was made. Was the game altered by the mistake? Yes. And did errors create consequences? For sure. But from my vantage point on the hard, wood bleacher here’s what I saw: a bunch of young boys learning to play the game of baseball.

And you learn to play the game of baseball by playing.

The same is true of life. You learn to play the game of life by playing. And in the playing there will be mistakes. There’s no question that each of us will make mistakes. There is a question as to how each of us will respond when we strike out.

A number of years ago I was feeling as if I were not progressing well in my spiritual development. I was focusing on it more. I was practicing different spiritual disciplines. And yet the more I desired the growth the more I noticed areas I needed to improve.

I found some encouragement in a small book called The Spiritual Guide by Michael Molinos. Molinos was a 7th century mystic whose book was translated into every language in the Western Hemisphere. Eventually his teachings (called Quietism) were condemned and he was jailed.

Although you may not affirm all that you could read in this book, his teachings on our failings were helpful to me. Maybe they will encourage you today too.

  • He reminds us that our “faults” are a result of our fallen nature. We are fallen creatures and therefore we will “fall.” He says we should not be “unduly troubled” by them. In other words, don’t expect to be a Major League player while you’re still in Little League. There’s a lot to learn. And we learn by our mistakes.
  • He reminds us that it is a “miracle of Divine grace that we do not fall every moment into innumerable faults.” That’s a different spin on how to view your sins. I don’t read this as an excuse for sin but rather a different perspective, that without Divine grace we wouldn’t be making the progress we are. And to not forget you are doing some things well.
  • He says if we are going to follow in the way of Jesus we must use the “weapon of confidence…in Divine goodness.” It’s a trust that God’s goodness towards us is greater than our failings towards him.

Have you missed a throw lately? Forgotten to tag the base? Struck out? Then show some compassion on yourself. The game isn’t over. You’ll be up to bat again soon.

Question: How do you handle mistakes you make? How do you treat yourself? What’s your internal dialogue?

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