When Mistakes Happen
by Jeff Montgomery
As we all know, none of us are as perfect as we would like to be. We slip up from time to time. Whether we like it or not, mistakes are a part of life. And of course, mistakes range in severity. Some cause us to suffer few consequences, others precipitate large changes in our lives.
In the workplaces of today, my observation is that mistakes take on a whole new character. With everyone doing more because of downsizing, rightsizing, hiring freezes, and 'early retirement' packages, it seems that the stakes for making a mistake at work have become higher.
Workplace mistakes also run the gamut of consequences, but in many environments the swift hand of justice comes swinging for the slightest malfunction. It seems like perfection is expected. Depending on the political environment you might find yourself being blamed for a mistake that you didn't cause - but you're guilty by association.
Worse yet, again depending on the political environment, justice may be meted out unfairly. Those who are in the political good graces of the powers that be suffer little or no consequences, while someone not in those good graces suffers a sterner fate.
From a Christian perspective, it can be difficult to deal with these situations, particularly because they trigger some of our more intense human emotions. If we feel wronged, we get angry. If we know that we were at fault, we feel humiliated and embarrassed. If we feel that there's a possibility that we might get fired, we start to worry and are filled with anxiety.
So what are we to do?
During these tough times of life, it is sometimes hard to remember that God is still there supporting us. We may feel abandoned by God, and wonder why he even let the situation happen to us. But He's always there, no matter what. Keeping our hearts and minds open to God through prayer will help us to remember that heavenly support.
At the same time, God could be using this as an opportunity to shape us, or to give us a mid-course correction. He could be using it to bring us further into His embrace. He could be using it to teach us a lesson in humility. Whatever the reason, He is still there with us, guiding us through the minefield, and waiting for us on the other side.
The only surefire way to make it through these situations is to put our trust in Jesus. As St. Paul says, "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me." This doesn't mean that everything that happens to us will be joyful and perfect, but it does mean that, working side by side with Christ, we can work our way through any difficult situation. And be better for it once we're through.
When we make a mistake at work, it can often induce feelings of great anxiety. This could come from wondering what consequences we may have to suffer as a result of the mistake, or even from worrying about whether we might have our employment terminated. Jesus again gives us comfort in these words: "Don't worry about tomorrow, today has enough worries of it's own".
In other words, the future is unknowable to us, so we should trust in God to keep us and guide us as our path unfolds. If we get reprimanded due to a mistake we make, welcome it as discipline from God and move on. If worry about losing our job engulfs us, give it up to God and know that He will take care of us. Concentrate on improving the things we can control - our on-the-job performance, say - and vow to do better. If we do lose our job, pray like crazy and trust that God will guide us to a new one.
Often, these situations provide us with an opportunity to experience and practice the virtue of humility. When things are going great, we tend to feel invincible. If we find ourselves in a tough situation due to a mistake we made, we can humbly acknowledge that we slipped up, and resolve to improve ourselves. Much like the confessional, a mistake-generated work situation can give us the chance to acknowledge our shortcoming and draw on the strength of God to, in effect, 'go and sin no more.'
Mistakes can happen for a number of reasons. We may be overloaded with work and having trouble keeping up with all the details of our tasks. We may have received inadequate training or guidance in what we're supposed to do. We may be suddenly confronted with a new situation that we don't know how to handle. In spite of our best efforts we may make an incorrect decision.
However, mistakes can teach us to learn to lean on God more for His strength and guidance, as well as give us a chance to improve our own knowledge and ability to handle different situations.
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