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Lies I Have Believed - 1. Mistakes are unacceptable

God and I have been chatting about some lies I have believed, fallacies I was sure were facts, statements that formed the foundations of my thinking in my delicate developmental years. Now, as an adult, everything I build is supported by that base. If the base is wonky the whole structure will feel slightly off. He has been gently reminding me that if I want to create a great life, building well today will not be enough. I must go back and replace those historic, foundational lies with truth. I need to realign the base.

So over the next while, here are some lies I have believed. Maybe you’ve believed them too. Maybe it’s time for the truth to set us free.

Lie One - Mistakes are unacceptable.

I didn’t learn this from my parents. My chief-caregivers were always proud of me. But I clearly remember the day when this lie took root. I was in my late teenage years and I made a mistake. Now let me explain, I was the kind of kid who worked super hard to get everything right. I was studious and keen to please. I always gave my best. But that day I messed up. Someone I deeply respected in authority over me told me I should be ashamed of myself. They spent an inordinate amount of time discussing the depths of disgust they had for me in that moment. They made me feel small, embarrassed and disproportionately guilt-ridden.

Now, looking back, I see things more clearly. The truth is this- I wasn’t being careless or callous when I made my mistake; I was doing my best but my best hadn’t been equal to the task I’d been given, so I had failed. That was not my fault. But that day, my young, developing mind believed the lie ‘mistakes are unacceptable’ even if you are doing your best when you make them. Hot-faced with shame I vowed to never make a mistake again.

I had forgotten about that moment until my chat with God raised the issue. Only then did I realise how much it has shaped my life. It’s why I analyse every single thing I said to you the last time we talked, to ensure nothing daft or unkind left my lips. It’s why I worried for two days straight in case I told the story wrong and inadvertently turned myself into a liar. It’s why when I first started to preach I lay awake for hours afterwards re-preaching the same sermon over and over to check for the mistakes I made, horrified at the smallest of errors. And worst of all, it’s why for years I have held those closest to me to ridiculously high and unachievable standards. Because I believed the lie, mistakes are unacceptable.

At the ripe old age of 38, I am doing my best to unlearn the lesson delivered to me that day when I was 17. Instead I’m replacing it with these truths -

God isn’t searching for perfection; he is perfection.

The world won’t fall apart if I mess something up.

People won’t suddenly decide I’m an idiot if I get something wrong, and in the event they do, that issue is theirs not mine.

Already I feel the load lightening and my tightened shoulders unfurl.

I tell my boys all the time, “Mistakes are proof you’re growing. They’re proof you were brave enough to try something new. They’re proof you’re human just like every single other person you meet. They aren’t something to be ashamed of.”

Funny how we tell others the truths we need to tell ourselves.

So today, when I want to beat myself up over a text I forgot to send or a sentence I could have worded differently, I’m going to remind myself it was just a mistake. Mistakes aren’t just acceptable, they are important. Mistakes aren’t the end; they are the beginning, the beginning of becoming the next version of ourselves; wiser, stronger, more compassionate. Mistakes matter.