I seem to have typing dyslexia. Often when writing online, I crisscross letters. “Is” easily becomes “si” and “of” looks like “fo”. Thank goodness for proofreading and for “spell check” on the computer. I can easily remedy the misspelled words with a little extra effort and the help of technology.
Life is like that. Most of us sometimes have an “OOPS”. We make a mistake. We say something we should not have said. We goof. Hopefully, the mistakes are small ones. This is the kind of Church that invites us to roll up our sleeves, jump in and go to work. We know each other better than many who attend church together. We understand the Lord’s qualifying principles. At times, it may seem as though “the hurrier I go, the behinder I get.” Our frenetic pace keeps us “oopsing’ in one way or another.
And so it goes. Life here on planet earth, in the mortal realm, comes with endless opportunities to serve and help as well as lots of ways we can mess up – to not quite hit the target for which we were aiming.
Sins or Mistakes?
Dallin H. Oaks brilliantly taught: “For most of us, most of the time, the choice between good and bad is easy. What usually causes us difficulty is determining which uses of our time and influence are merely good, or better, or best. Applying that fact to the question of sins and mistakes, I would say that a deliberately wrong choice in the contest between what is clearly good and what is clearly bad is a sin, but a poor choice among things that are good, better, and best is merely a mistake.”
We must do a little thinking to discern the difference between sins and mistakes. We all do both of them. But the process of clearing our minds, hearts, and spirits may be a bit different. It always is a matter of our choice:
President Howard W. Hunter once offered: “Given the freedom to choose, we may, in fact, make wrong choices, bad choices, hurtful choices. And sometimes we do just that, but that is where the mission and mercy of Jesus Christ comes into full force and glory. He has taken upon Himself the burden of all the world’s risk. He has provided a mediating atonement for the wrong choices we make. He is our advocate with the Father and has paid, in advance, for the faults and foolishness we often see in the exercise of our freedom.” (Ensign, November 1989, “The Golden Thread of Choice”)
As we go through life, mistakes are going to happen. Those mistakes are often ones we don’t ‘see’ as errors:
- Being pompous or arrogant- tossing in our two cents where it doesn’t belong.
- Somehow glorying in a past (or present) calling, job, or opportunity – and believing it gives us privilege to assert ourselves in uncomely ways.
- Sins of omission. We don’t feel like it, we’re too tired, it’s someone else’s job, we ‘can’t do it all, so we will leave out ____ [fill in blank with whatever is convenient at the moment]. On and on the list goes.
- Making judgment calls that aren’t ours to make. We are to judge righteously, of course. We must, in order to choose wisely. But to stick our nose in and speak to or about someone else in a negative way because we see it one way or another–without knowing the intent of the other person’s heart, or without even knowing that person? Nope… that’s an “oops.”
Things We Can Do
Sometimes there are large mistakes to remedy. The good news is that those mistakes can be taken care of. The Atonement of Jesus Christ can remedy bad choices and errors in judgment. While we may know this, in our mind, there is a voice that whispers to some, ‘You are too far gone.” “You are not worthy of forgiveness.” “You’ll never get it right.” On and on…. Adversarial lies that keep many from the miracle of becoming free from past errors; from accepting the gift Jesus offers freely so that we can move forward in peace.
Whether large or small, we all have progress to make. And isn’t that the point of our mortal journey?
While we don’t have a keyboard to easily get rid of the mistakes, we can:
- Say “I’m sorry” and mean it.
- Forgive ourselves as easily as Christ does.
- Learn from the experience so we don’t find ourselves in a pattern of Offend/Feel bad/Repeat.
- Accept the marvelous gift of Christ’s atonement. It is the equivalent of using “White Out” on paper in order to swipe way the error. Then, it can be corrected. And the Lord remembers it no more.(Jeremiah 31:34)
- Study ways of better governing ourselves. We are never too old, too busy, too accomplished, or too lofty to keep learning how to better discipline ourselves. We can’t rest on past laurels. As long as we have mortal breath, there are things to learn concerning how to be a better child of God.
- Admit our guilt and grow the desire to leave the mistakes behind- permanently.
- Be more understanding. Elder Oaks reminded us, “If we would be more understanding of one another’s mistakes, being satisfied merely to correct and not to chasten or call to repentance, we would surely promote loving and living together in greater peace and harmony.” And then, of course, we need to make sure the time/place/circumstance is a proper one in order to make that ‘correction!’
Accepting the Atonement
The atonement that Christ offers us rests upon our decision to accept responsibility for our mistakes and to have a “change of heart” whereby we will “have no more disposition to do evil.” This very real gift – offered by the Savior for our sakes – is like having at our disposal Spiritual Technology to make those errors disappear. The backspace. The rewrite. The trash for tossing out the papers we just don’t like. What an amazing gift! A gift available to each of us, waiting for us to accept it.
The Lord wants our story to be as clear of mistakes as possible. For any “oops” that may need correcting, He has made it possible for the pages of our daily lives to be cleaned up and made rigth! (oops) Wink, wink, there….
We do need to remember that repentance is also a gift. We’re gonna err. It’s gonna happen. It need not be the end of the world. Most of us know all this stuff. But maybe we need to remember it now and then; or maybe we need to lovingly remind someone we love; or maybe we need to tuck this away until a day when the world seems heavy, hard, and ugly…because we made an “oops.” May the good Lord bless us to remember He is in our corner, always at the ready, to help us make things right.
Vickey is a wife, mom, grandmother, teacher, author, and songwriter. In addition to three solo albums in the LDS market, she co-wrote Women at the Well with Kenneth Cope and My Beloved Christ with Randy Kartchner. She is co-writer of the theme song for Utah’s Make A Wish foundation, Special Olympics program, and EFY’s theme song.
She writes for several online magazines and columns, and has authored several books. Her website www.goodnessmatters.comis her way of continuing to grow goodness in the world, & point people gently toward Christ & eternal principles of truth. She writes regular columns for www.latterdaysaintmag.com [Meridian magazine online] and www.nauvootimes.com.