When I was 11, I performed on stage for the very first time. It was a play all about the planets and stars and how they all lived together happily in the solar system. There was a very sassy Sirius, a super confident Mars, and a warm-hearted Sun. I played Saturn. I had to recite the lines for my part and sing a verse in the final play. Don’t ask me how I ended up performing in a play, I honestly don’t know. I was extremely shy growing up, so it was the last thing I wanted to do.
Each day, I went to rehearsal and practiced my lines and my verse with the director and all the other kids in the play. The more we rehearsed, the better play came together. I got better at remembering my lines and projecting my voice so the audience could hear me well. My part in the song got better too. The one thing I couldn’t conquer was the final note in my solo. It was way too high for me and no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t hit it. The director kept playing the note, trying to help me get it just wasn’t working out. I practiced at home and at rehearsal, hoping to get it before the date of the show.
I let out an embarrassingly high screech instead of a beautiful soprano pitch.
Finally, it was the night of the show. I was dressed in a bright yellow skirt and top and wore a sign around my neck that said Saturn on it. I was so ready. The audience sat with anticipation, waiting for us to start the show. Shortly after, the show was on and we were off to a great start. Eventually, we got to the finale and it was time for us to sing our closing song. When my turn came, I walked up to the mic as everyone stared, ready to hit that note I’d been practicing for so long. I got to the last line of my solo, gave it everything I had, and let out an embarrassingly high screech instead of a beautiful soprano pitch.
To say I was horrified was an understatement. I couldn’t stop thinking about my embarrassing mistake the rest of the night. So many thoughts swirled through my mind: Why couldn’t I hit it right this time? Why did the director give me such a high note? Why did I even agree to do this play in the first place? Though I was confident moments before, after this mishap, I started to doubt everything. Even when people came to me with compliments, I secretly wished they would go away. Their compliments only reminded me of my mistake. One I never wanted to make again. Honestly, though, what I was really saying was, “I never want to be pushed out of my comfort zone again.”
Mistakes do not signify your end.
Yet, since then I’ve allowed myself to step out of my comfort zone many times. It’s been scary but rewarding. In the moment, making an embarrassingly horrible mistake can be an awful feeling. It can make you feel like the world is crumbling beneath your feet. But, the truth is, mistakes do not signify your end. Instead, they can clear the path for a beautiful new beginning if you let them.
I’m sure you’ve had your own experiences with embarrassing mistakes in the past. It happens to all of us. You might not have confidently belted out a horrible note in front of a crowd, but you probably have made a mistake while doing something pretty important. It’s tough, isn’t it? Sometimes, it can feel like everyone around you is ready to condemn you for your grave mistake. It threatens to zap your confidence as you shrink into despair. The worst part is that even when everyone else forgets it, you can’t stop replaying it in your head. Making mistakes (especially when everyone can see them) can produce some of the worst feelings within but it can also help mold you into a better version of you.
Messing up breaks down the need to be perfect.
Messing up breaks down the need to be perfect. It’s as if a huge wall comes crashing down and you suddenly realize it’s okay to be fully human. I was so devastated when I belted out that wrong note because I didn’t want anyone to see my flaws. Sometimes, when I look at other people compared to myself, they seem perfect and I don’t. I don’t want to mess up because it makes me feel weak.
If we’re being honest, I can be pretty clumsy sometimes. I try to keep it concealed but sometimes it gets the best of me. I end up tripping over sidewalks, walking into glass walls, knocking things over, you name it. Though I try to be extra careful, that doesn’t always work. I also fear saying the wrong thing. So, instead of speaking, I tend to keep my mouth shut when I’m nervous that my opinions will be judged.
You weren’t called to be the poster child of perfection.
Then I learned the reality: none of us will say or even do the right things all the time. We all mess up from time to time. We weren’t called to be the poster child of perfection. We were called to walk by faith and to let God’s grace transform us day by day. Our faith walk is not characterized by perfection. Instead, we were called to righteousness. Righteousness comes from God, perfection comes from self.
We’re often so busy focusing on our own flaws, we forget that others around us struggle too. No one is perfect but as Christians, we are all walking on a journey towards righteousness. Most people are not holding the mistake you made 12 years ago against you, and if they are, they’re in the wrong. Most people are quick to forget. So, why are you quick to hold on?
Take the weight off yourself and allow room for God to teach you through your mistake.
I do understand that there is a range of different types of mistakes people make. There are those that may be personally embarrassing but aren’t sinful. Then, there are mistakes that are sin and goes against God’s will. If your mistake was a sinful one, then apologize to who you need to apologize to, repent before God and then forgive yourself. If you hold on to mistakes of any form, they can prevent you from becoming the best version of yourself. Take the weight off yourself and allow room for God to teach you through your mistake.
When you make a mistake, it opens the door to a world of knowledge you could only gain after messing up and learning from your mistake. Remember that high note 11 year old me couldn’t hit? I can hit it now. I can hit even higher notes. If I hadn’t been stretched by trying to hit that note, I would never have known that my range could go far beyond what I was used to. When we make mistakes, it’s shows that we’ve tried something that other people didn’t have the courage to try. That means, we also get to learn things that other people may never learn.
If I’m attempting to scale a mountain, I might fall a few times.
If I’m attempting to scale a mountain, I might fall a few times. Eventually, if I’m persistent, I’ll make it to the top. Don’t compare yourself to the people at the bottom watching you mess up. Sure, they haven’t messed up but that’s because they haven’t done anything significant. Eventually, after learning the right and wrong spots to place your feet as you climb, you’ll make it to the top of the mountain and you’ll have the wisdom you need to climb it again and again.
When I developed a passion for singing, I was so bad at it. I can say the same thing about drawing, writing, and photography. One day, I decided to go through my old youtube videos and I found a gem. It was a video of 14 year old me singing Now You Know by Hilary Duff. I cringed as I watched the poor quality video, recorded in my bathroom and listened to the completely off rhythm paired with all the wrong notes. To me, it looked like an absolute disaster. I’m sure many people watched and judged me harshly for hurting my ears with my terrible singing.
But hey, I was trying and though, looking back it didn’t seem like I was improving, I was. The fact that I could look back 9+ years later and cringe means that I was improving. Eventually, my voice developed I began to sound so much better than I did then. I have a far way to go but I’ve also come a long way. I’ve only come this far because of the mistakes I made as I tried learning how to sing.
If you don’t let yourself get stuck because of mistakes, they have the potential to lead to incredible growth. If you leave here with anything, remember that mistakes happen to all of us. Remember that our aim is righteousness, not perfection. Remember that mistakes can teach us so much. If you’ve made a mistake, forgive yourself. If you’ve sinned, repent. Once, you have repented, God doesn’t hold your sin against you anymore. The Bible actually says that God will throw our sins into depths of the sea. Allow yourself to learn from your mistake and keep moving forward, building on each lesson as you go.