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Fess Up to Your Mess-Up

  • Dr. Robert Jeffress Pathway to Victory
  • Updated Sep 26, 2008
Fess Up to Your Mess-Up

Life's filled with perplexing questions for which there seem to be no easy answers. For example...
  • Why isn't phonics spelled the way it sounds?
  • Why are there interstate highways in Hawaii?
  • If a vegetarian eats only vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?
  • If you throw a cat out the window, is that kitty litter?

Here's one more: Why do we instinctively deny our failures rather than admit them? You would think we would eventually learn that covering up our mistakes never works. But that doesn't keep us from trying, does it?

Last night I heard a veteran television reporter observe, "It's the same story since the Watergate fiasco. It's not the crime that ends up getting you but the cover-up of the crime."

Actually the tendency to hide our failures predates Watergate. It all started with Edengate. After Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they automatically felt guilty and tried to cover up their guilt with some ill-fitting fig leaves.

Since that episode in Eden, we've all become rather adept at the same sport. When we fail, our first instinct is to cover up and hope no one notices. When we are exposed, our first impulse is to accuse others and hope everyone agrees.

Failing to accept responsibility for our failures prevents us from receiving the forgiveness we desperately need, and it also precludes us from experiencing the new beginning we desperately desire.

In my new book, Second Chance, Second Act, I explain four benefits of "fessing up to your mess-up":

1. Admitting Failure Allows Us to Receive God's Forgiveness

Augustine said, "God only gives to those whose hands are empty." Only when we are ready to empty ourselves of denials and rationalizations for our failures will we be in a position to receive God's forgiveness for our mistakes.

May I share a secret with you? God already knows about your failures. He's aware of...

— your addiction,

— your bankruptcy,

— your divorce,

— your immorality,

— your squandered opportunities.

But He can't forgive you as long as you're trying to forgive yourself by excusing, denying, or blaming others for your failures. Aren't you ready to take off those ill-fitting fig leaves and ask God to cover your failures with His forgiveness?

2. Admitting Failure Renews Our Emotional and Physical Vitality

Nothing can sap your emotional and physical strength more than lingering guilt over unconfessed mistakes.

King David experienced the physical and emotional downside of denial after his moral failure with Bathsheba. As David reflected on the months he spent covering over his failure, he wrote:

"When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away
Through my groaning all day long.
For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer" (Psalm 32:3-4).

However, once David admitted his failure, he experienced immediate relief:

"I acknowledged my sin to You,
And my iniquity I did not hide;
I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the LORD';
And You forgave the guilt of my sin . . .
Be glad in the LORD and rejoice you righteous ones,
And shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart" (Psalm 32:5,11).

Are you physically and emotionally exhausted from trying to hide your mistakes? Are you tired of worrying day and night what will happen when others discover your failure? Nothing compares to the relief that comes from the belief that your mistake has been forgiven.

3. Admitting Failure Encourages Us to Move On

One morning recently I stepped out of the shower ready to dry my hair. After plugging the hair dryer into the outlet, I flipped the On switch and . . . nothing. I clicked it several more times, illustrating the definition of a moron: someone who does the same thing repeatedly expecting different results. Finally I reached over and pressed the small, red Reset button in the plug, and the dryer began to blow.

Occasionally it helps to hit the emotional Reset button in our lives. We need to start over and head in a new direction. Admitting to God, to others, and to ourselves that we have blown it helps us make a clear delineation between the past and the future. Our acknowledgment of failure serves as a marker for the beginning of our second act. Whenever we're haunted by guilt over our failure or we're tempted to repeat the same mistake, we can say, "Since that is part of my past and not part of my future, I'm not going there again."

4. Admitting Failure Allows Us to Learn from Mistakes

If we are unwilling to label an episode in our lives as a failure, we will never be free to learn from our mistake. For example, Thomas Edison is often quoted as saying that he had learned 1,100 ways not to make a light bulb.

But inside that humorous quip is a serious, but simple truth: until we're willing to admit our failure, we cannot profit from our failure.

My grandfather was financially astute. To my knowledge he never borrowed any money. I can still hear him saying, "Robert, interest can either be your greatest friend or your greatest enemy. It either works for you or against you."

The same can be said about mistakes.

The first step in making your mistakes work for you rather than against you is to admit that you've made a mistake. Remember, God is willing to forgive your mistake . . . if you are willing to ask.

In this month's series Second Chance, Second Act on Pathway To Victory radio and television beginning April 22 (www.ptv.org), you can learn how to turn your biggest mistakes into new beginnings.

(Adapted from Second Chance, Second Act by Robert Jeffress, Waterbrook Press, 2007)