Not having; not doing well at something; making a wrong choice; not being able; not finishing: not achieving; not ‘winning’; the struggle; needing to recognize what others do better; having to work hard for it, et cetera, is what builds an honest attitude; keeps us humble, and does the most to grow us up. Which photographers, for instance, do not groan at the fantastic shot opportunities they have wasted, but oh what lessons they did learn from those mistakes?

Honesty about our mistakes and inadequacies could be the most underrated attribute in human behavior. Here is the irony: those who need this lesson least are the children; the simple; the humble; the poor; the lame; the blind; the maimed, and of course – the honest!

If dictators were honest about their mistakes, they would quickly climb down from their bullying. If leaders were honest about their mistakes, they would seek perspectives from even the lowliest company. If husbands, or wives, were honest about their mistakes they would stand in silence even in the face of their spouse’s strident opposition.

Why, with regard to the power of honesty, does it feel like every voice of reason is shouting into a broken loud hailer? We live sadly in a world where the pursuit of gain and glory daily sweeps deceit under the carpet from the public eye. Honesty, for our sports heroes, means the end of the gravy train, and possible prosecution, while countless others continue regardless to break the rules of normalcy, and ethical behavior.

Paul advises the arrogant assertors of truth to get mediation from even the “least wise” in their community. Jesus advised the know-it-all Pharisee to rather choose a seat at the foot of the table. Did Jesus not strip bare the pretence of show by lifting up the widow and her mite? Did he not celebrate the woman who was even willing like a dog to eat the crumbs that fell from his table? Did he not confront the stony-hearted who stood with their stones in hand excusing themselves from the penalty of death they wished to carry out against the terrified prostitute?

What can we learn from our mistakes?

What does an honest view of mistakes produce?

First, we would have an improved attitude that yields greater joy and peace. By contrast, being dishonest about ourselves makes us uneasy; out of balance; lowering the mood wherever we go; on edge; otherwise, and difficult to be around. We will not be able to cover it up until we either change; are rejected, or others just have to put up with us. Regrettably, the last is most often the case. In many instances, we can see love covering over a multitude of ‘sins of attitude’ in our friendships; in marriages; in parenting; in the workplace, and in our neighbourhoods. Bad attitudes are toxic, and need an honest evaluation, and change. What do you think would occur if every friendship would take the time to sit down and discuss their friendship honestly with a view to reducing toxicity? If we know that we are in an unhealthy place that we do not belong to, we do something about it!

Second, we would see much more evidence of God’s grace. God says that he resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.

Third, it would be to strive less. Have you not experienced wanting something bad, and pushing too hard to get it, and then feeling worse afterwards about how you got it? Those who push harder when opposed have not learnt something essential in maturing: that when they are wrong, any step they take without a change in direction entrenches them further into their problem. In this regard: I ask myself often whether my life is seen by what I have ‘achieved’ in the past, or by the willingness to wait on God today. His grace is new every day, and we are blessed that the Spirit helps us in our difficulties!

In addition, the answer to this question is not so easy to see from our perspective, but can be much more easily identified by those closest to us! Actions can be so deceptive. Our strivings can seem so spiritual. The sheer sweat of it can cover over its source – the Self! Success is deceptive also. Its production can cover over its purpose – to feed the Self! Paul explains this when he says that it is good to have zeal; provided it is with godly purpose. God is much less enamored by our achievements than by our honest adjustments. He is also much less impressed by our sense of wellbeing than by whether we are following the Spirit.

Fourth, it increases discernment. Honest reflection increases discernment. Let’s face it: we need renewing in our minds to embrace the lessons in our mistakes and to allow them to change us. Paul, in his letter to the Romans said, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God!”

Martin Brundle an exF1 racing driver recently said: if someone wants to be champion, he has to make the wall his friend. Let’s translate that into social parlance: make your mistake your ‘friend’; learn from it; listen to it; do not forget it, lest you keep repeating it!

If you make a mistake, say: “God, I know you love me. I made a mistake. Help me! His track record is absolutely airtight toward both the best and the worst of humans – he will not refuse to bless you! If God is for you, who is against you?

The ‘fescue’… it could be worse: see this quick ten-second video…