Mistakes, Humility, and Learning

Mistakes are part of what it means to be on mission with Jesus.

How do I know this?  Read the Gospels and look at the dozens and dozens of mistakes that the disciples make as they try to follow Jesus.  Mess up, after mess up, after mess up.  Confusion on top of confusion.  Mistakes galore.

How else do I know this?  Because I have experienced this more often in the last few months of my life than I would like to admit.  And these last few months have been filled with my wife, my community, and I making attempts to be on mission with Jesus.



Why is this the case?  Why do we seem to make a bunch of mistakes when we try to be on mission with Jesus?  I think there are two primary reasons:

  1. Following Jesus Is Risky — To be on mission with Jesus means that we put our safety and comfort aside for what really matters.  And what’s that; what really matters?  God’s will, that’s what.  And what is God’s will?  Friends, this is not trick question and it’s not that complicated.  Really.  From the beginning to the end of the Bible we see it.  Namely, God’s will is to be involved with reconciling all things to God in Christ (2 Corinthians 5.19).  In God’s economy there nothing of more worth than this!  This goal is worth risking everything.  And as we risk stuff, we will make mistakes.  Maybe we’ll risk the wrong thing.  Maybe we’ll focus our attention in the wrong place.  Maybe we’ll hurt lots of feelings by focusing on one thing and not on another.  The point is this: being on mission is risky and with risk comes mistakes.
  2. Following Jesus is Messy — If being on mission with Jesus means being involved in the reconciliation of all things to God in Christ, then this is going to be messy.  Why is that?  Simple: fixing broken relationships is hard.  Just think about the last time you hurt someone and needed to make things right with them.  How’d that go?  Was it easy?  Was it nice and tidy?  Probably not.  I’m sure it was a mess.  And in the midst of that mess we’re going to make a ton of mistakes.  We just will.  We’ll try our best and we’ll still mess up.  We’ll have the best intentions and yet we’ll still hurt people that matter to us.  We’ll be actively engaged in reconciliation and we’ll actually damage the person or people we’re trying to reconnect with.  And our mistakes will be in our behavior, our words, and our postures.  Reconciliation = mistakes.  That’s a universal law right there with gravity.


So there are a few responses to making mistakes:

  1. Pretending — We can act like we’re perfect and that we never, ever make mistakes.  Some of us are so used to doing this that we don’t even recognize it anymore.  It’s just part of our lives.  We lie.  Let’s just call it what it is.
  2. Shutting Down — We make mistakes.  We try again.  Then we make more mistakes.  Then we try.  Mistakes.  Try.  Mistakes.  Etc.  So, eventually we just quit trying.  We shut down.  We quit.
  3. Getting Defensive — So we make some mistakes and some of us defend ourselves.  Maybe we’ll make some excuses.  Maybe we’ll tell the person or people we have hurt all the reasons that they are wrong about how they feel and that the mistake we made is actually not really a mistake at all.  If this sounds familiar to you, then you’re a lot like me.  Yay for you!
  4. Becoming Humble — This is the goal that we should all be shooting for.  When we make mistakes we ought to humbly accept our responsibility and begin to make amends.  We shouldn’t lie.  We shouldn’t quit.  And we shouldn’t get defensive.  Instead, we should be humble and seek to continue the reconciliation process.



And the great news, of course, is that if we’re humble we can begin to learn how to make less mistakes.  Now don’t get me wrong; we’re always going to make mistakes.  We aren’t perfect.  But we can begin to learn how not to make the same mistakes over and over again.

In so doing we’ll hurt the people we love and are trying to be reconciled with a bit less.  We’ll build trust.  We’ll demonstrate our love.  We’ll embody the good news of Jesus.  And we’ll begin to engage more fully in doing God’s will of reconciling all things to himself in Christ.

Some of this learning will be natural, trial-and-error type of learning.  Some of it will be gained through studying.  And much of it will be through listening to people vastly different from us so that we can learn from various perspectives.


Mistakes aren’t going away.  So we better figure out what to do when we make them!


Friends, how do you deal with making mistakes?  What role do humility and learning play in that process?

Robin Williams and Depression

The news of Robin Williams’ passing is incredibly sad. He’s always been one of my favorite comedians.

It may not be surprising to anyone who knows me but I love stand up comedy.

Number one: it’s funny. I love the way that comedians look at life. They see the absurdity and irony of things and they find humor in life that many of us never could. Number two: it’s taught me so much about communication. I’ve often thought that doing stand-up comedy at an open mic night would be a great way to improve my communication skills. The way that comedians are able to get their ideas across to the audience is simply amazing. And I’m not sure there was anyone who was better at it than Robin Williams. He packed more jokes into a smaller space than just about anyone else.

With all of that said it’s understandable why his passing is really difficult for many of us. Robin Williams was a man that many of us loved. He brought us joy. He made us laugh. He made us think.

And yet at his core it appears that he did not have joy. It’s been widely reported that Robin Williams was depressed. As a depressive person myself I can understand where he’s coming from. Even though he was receiving adulation from millions of people in the world, he apparently had a hard time believing this for himself.

Depression and the Church

The depression that Robin Williams may have suffered from is not necessarily something that can be willed or prayed away. For some of us depression or being depressive is just a matter of our brains’ chemistries. It’s something that we have to live with and learn how to manage our whole lives.

Unfortunately in the church depression is still a major stigma. People often think that those who suffer with depression just haven’t realized or accepted the joy of the Lord. They just haven’t prayed the right way. Maybe there’s some sin that they just can’t get over. Etc., etc., ad nauseam. Those of us who suffer from depression or who tend to be depressive often hear all this nonsense. In fact we hear it so much that we are hesitant to reveal that we’re depressive or are in the midst of suffering from depression.

So in light of Robin Williams’ untimely death I think it would be wise for us to think again about how we as the church approach mental illness, especially depression. We can’t turn a blind eye anymore. And we can’t just relegate it to the category of those bad Christians who simply don’t pray enough. Depression and mental illness are realities that we need to take seriously!

One of the ways that we can begin taking them seriously is by removing the stigma from depression and other mental illnesses. We need to be people who are open and accepting of all people and all of their baggage. Our churches need to be safe havens for people who suffer all kinds of ailments, whatever they may be. If we did this, then I think we would be more known for our kindness and compassion than for our judgmental attitudes!

Another thing that we need to take away from from this situation is the following: Take helpful action!  If any of us are having suicidal thoughts or if any of us know those who may be having suicidal thoughts, we need to seek help. If we are depressed or know someone who is, it may be time to think about visiting a professional. There’s nothing wrong with seeking counseling or medication if necessary. And as the church we need to do a better job of not judging people with mental illness.

Friends we need to remember the Scripture where Jesus said that he came for the sick and not for the well (Matthew 9.12, Mark 2.17, Luke 5.31). There are many different kinds of sicknesses, one of which is mental illness. And Jesus came for folks who suffer the way that Robin Williams suffered.

Let us do a better job of caring for those in need.


How do you think the church should approach depression?  Let me know in the comments below.