Admitting the inevitable: I make mistakes

As I worked through my last post, I was smacked with the realization that while I’ve claimed fear of “getting in trouble” as the main motivation for rule-following most of my life, I’m not sure that’s really ever been true. But if that’s not been my reason, then what has?

I’ve come up with three, which I’ll dive into over the next few days:

1. I hate admitting I’ve made a mistake.

2. I don’t want to step outside of the labels I’ve been given and therefore draw attention to myself.

3. I don’t want to disappoint anyone.

My first job out of college was a copy editor position at a local Christian publisher. I was green as could be. My senior-year internship had been an editorial assistant role in the communications department of a large corporation—an invaluable experience (and one that would serve me greatly in later positions). But it wasn’t a publishing job per say, and to be honest I was clueless as to how things worked at a large publishing house.

But they hired me anyway, so I did what I had done best for most of my life—I faked it. But there was a woman in another department who, unbeknownst to me, was keeping an eye on the new girl. She was once a copy editor too, and she’d been at the company for years.

She re-edited everything I edited. Then she’d have me come down to her desk, and she’d explain all of my errors. Lots and lots of them. I’d just sit there and nod, vowing to myself that I’d never make that mistake again—or that one, or that one.

Total embarrassment.

I loathed being summoned to that desk and seeing everything I’d missed laid bare. There was no escaping my imperfections because they were on paper right in front of my face! I wasn’t everything I thought I was. I needed to practice and learn and grow. I needed a good dose of humility, too.

Eventually this woman would become a cherished mentor. It didn’t take long for us to develop a mutual respect for each other that grew into fondness. To this day, I credit her with helping me hone the valuable skills that I would carry with me into future jobs. Under her watchful eye, I became an asset to my team. I’m able to see clearly now that she didn’t resent me and my lack of skill at the time—she wanted to teach me. And she did. And I am grateful.

This is key.

A couple of years ago, I was working part-time on staff at a church as a writer-slash-editor. There wasn’t another editor on staff; I was it. If a mistake made it onto a handout or pamphlet or the website or the magazine we published twice a year, it was on me.

No pressure.

So how about that one time when I referred to a church board member’s teenage daughter as his son—smack in the middle of our fresh-off-the press magazine?

Not one of my finer career moments. Other errors have made it into print over the years, but that one takes the cake. When someone noticed it and pointed it out to my manager, she didn’t even want to tell me. She knew it would crush me. (She knows me well.) In fact, I don’t think I learned the board member had a son and a daughter—not two sons—for at least a month after that magazine issue had been in circulation.

You can bet I’ll never make that mistake again, but that’s not really the point.

I had seen a [unisex] first name in a bio and made an assumption, and in a quick edit swapped out the words “kids” for “sons.” It was my mistake; there was no way around it. But I did not in any way shape or form want to admit that to anyone. Instead, the first words out of my mouth were those casting blame on others who in my opinion, should have caught my error.

MY error.

I hate admitting my propensity for making mistakes; therefore I don’t want to make any mistakes in the first place; therefore I strive to adhere to whatever rules are placed before me; therefore when I inevitably fail because alas, I am human, I am ashamed and try to direct blame elsewhere.

It’s a sin issue, no doubt. It’s pride at the root. And that’s not what should motivate my obedience, especially when it comes to my relationship with God.


Elisabeth Elliot once wrote that our attempts to keep God’s law will in itself be “sufficient to humble us, for the ‘straightedge of the law’ (Romans 3:20) will only show us, as Paul found, how crooked we are. We will find, in fact that we cannot keep it.”

I must be willing to admit that I am not capable of flawlessly following every rule because I am not perfect. If I was perfect, I wouldn’t need Jesus. And believe me, I need Jesus. Oh, how I need him! And it’s God’s beautiful, perfect law that reveals this truth.

I don’t have to just be okay with this. I can be grateful for it. And in my gratitude to God for his gifts of grace upon grace, I can freely say, “I make mistakes. Glory to God!”

We’re not done here yet.

Click here to see all posts from the Grace, Freedom, & the Rules series.

{This series is part of the Write 31 Days challenge. You might notice I’m a bit behind. Consider it an exercise in giving myself grace!} 

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