Did you ever have one of those moments when you completely lost your temper and go off on somebody only to realize a few minutes later that the situation that sparked the whole incident was actually your fault?
Welcome to my Monday night!
It was the end of a long day. Even though I thought it was time to “wrap things up for the evening”, my Dad was just getting started. In typical “old-man” fashion, he needed an assistant.
“’Dessa, where can I find this?”
“’Dessa, what should I do with this?”
“”Dessa, I can’t figure this out, come help me with this.”
Well, now I was annoyed. In my head I started the rant: “How can you function so well all day long at your job and then you come home and you can’t find anything? How long have you lived here? Twenty-five? Thirty? Thirty-five years? Why are you still oblivious to how things work?”
Fortunately, at this point all of this was in my head. Unfortunately, a similar version was about to come out of my mouth before too long.
So I went to help him. When I got to where he was, I realized his dilemma. Things really weren’t the way they should have been. Someone had messed things up, breaking the normal routine and causing him to say, “What do I do?”
Annoyed that I had to fix the issue, I made a comment about someone not following our normal routine. Honestly, I couldn’t figure out how to fix the dilemma either. Still, he kept pushing and insisting that he needed what he needed.
Now my temperature was really rising, and I said, “What do you want me to do? I can’t just make things magically happen!”
Then that silly man flashed a red flag in front of a bull when he suggested that it might be my fault!
A-R-E YOU KIDDING ME?
This was not my fault! That’s when I lost my temper and gave him a good tongue lashing explaining EXACTLY why it could never be my fault, why it was probably his fault, and why it’s ridiculous that he couldn’t just solve the problem on his own in the first place without dragging me into it.
And then I walked away feeling a twinge of guilt that I’d just lost my temper so badly.
Later on, I felt REALLY bad when I realized that not only had I lost my temper, but that I was the one who had made the mistake. After all was said and done, the error that caused the drama was mine!
Well, by this time my Dad was in bed (seriously, this all did happen pretty late at night). As I listened to him snore, I figured my apology would not be appreciated if I woke him up to do it.
Then I went to bed and spent the next hour giving myself a much more severe mental beating then I would ever have the guts to give another person.
“How could I be so dumb?”
“Why did I make such a stupid mistake?”
“Why did I have to lose my temper? Why couldn't I just be sweet and agreeable? Especially since I’m the one who created the situation in the first place?”
On and on and on I went until a Scripture came into my mind.
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV
God’s mercy is new every morning.
By this time, it was after midnight and we were in the wee hours of early morning. It was tomorrow. As Anne of Green Gables would say, “Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it.”
It was time to stop the self-flagellation and abuse, to ask God to forgive me for losing my temper, to forgive myself for making the mistake and losing my temper, to move on and fall asleep. It was time to stop wasting my energy beating myself up and wishing I’d done things differently, to accept mercy, and to move forward determined not to repeat the same mistakes tomorrow.
Sometimes that’s exactly what we, as women, need to do: We need to admit that we blew it, accept God’s mercy and forgiveness and move on.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that we move on continuing to do the things that were wrong, but rather, recognizing and appreciating the gift of mercy, we move on determined to learn from our mistakes and do better next time. Rather than wasting time and energy beating ourselves up, when we understand the true beauty and value of mercy we can move on putting our energy into changing our attitudes and behaviors.
Self-flagellation by definition accomplishes nothing more than punishing oneself for the things you’ve done wrong.
On the other hand, mercy and grace applies forgiveness and encourages Christ-like growth.
So, what are we, as Christian women supposed to do (besides condemn and punish ourselves mercilessly) when we totally blow it?
#1 We’ve Got to Admit We Were Wrong
Okay, I admit, sometimes this is the hardest thing to do. It’s much easier to make excuses, blame other people, or try to defend why our actions were justified.
“They baited me.”
“I was under too much pressure and stress.”
“She started it.”
The only problem is that these are all lame excuses, because as we learned when we were children “no one can make you do anything.” If you made the choice to give into your sinful nature and do something wrong, own up to it. Admit it. Stop passing the buck and take responsibility for your own actions, attitudes, and choices. Be a big girl and acknowledge that you were wrong.
#2 Ask God to Forgive You
1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
As soon as you realize that you’ve sinned, go to God and ask Him to forgive you. Then allow Him to completely cleanse you of all unrighteousness by showing you the motives and intents of your heart that caused you to sin. Let Him get to the root of the problem so that you can overcome this sin in your life and not repeat it again.
For example, as I asked God to forgive me for losing my temper with my Dad, the Holy Spirit showed me why I lost my temper. Together, we were able to face this issue head on and hopefully overcome it. Because I allowed the Holy Spirit to show me the changes that needed to be made in my heart and life, I was not just forgiven, but I was cleansed of all the unrighteous thoughts, attitudes, and motives I had in this situation. As you are cleansed of more and more unrighteousness, you grow closer to God and your relationship with Him is strengthened.
#3 Ask Any People You’ve Hurt to Forgive You
After things are taken care of in your relationship between you and God, it’s time to deal with the other relationships in your life. Yes, it’s time to perform the dreaded task of going to the person or people you’ve sinned against, admitting you were wrong and asking them to forgive you.
Yep, that’s what I had to do with my Dad the next day. When he came home (I didn’t see him before this because he gets up REALLY early in the morning), I asked him to forgive me for losing my temper and I admitted (and this was the hard part) that all along, the mistake was mine. (Ouch!)
Why is this step so important? Well, there are two reasons:
First, you are a representative of Christ. Granted, none of us is ever going to be perfect like Jesus. However, because we are His representatives whenever our behavior is un-Christlike, we need to admit we are wrong and ask forgiveness so that the person we hurt understands, “This was all me---I was wrong---this isn’t how Jesus would act. I’m sorry.”
Secondly, going to another person and asking them to forgive you will help stop repeating the behavior. I don’t know about you, but I hate admitting I was wrong, humbling myself and asking forgiveness. If I know I’ll have apologize every time I lose my temper, it helps me walk away and cool down before I lose my temper the next time. This brings us to point #4:
#4 We Need to Strive to Do Better Next Time
True repentance means more than just saying “Sorry, sorry, sorry.” It means that we completely turn in the opposite direction and act differently next time. As Christians, we need to avoid the temptation to keep going round and round on the cycle of “Sin-Repent-Repeat”. However, mercy is not a license to go on sinning. Repentance demands we do a u-turn in our lives.
Paul says it this way in Romans 6:1-2 “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”
As Christians, we need to be constantly striving to overcome sin and develop Christ-like character. Just because we fall, doesn’t give us an excuse to stay down. Instead, we need to get up, brush ourselves off by asking forgiveness, and then get back on the road toward developing Christian character.
When we are committed to taking these steps, we can be assured that: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV
This leads us to step #5:
#5 Move On!
Once you’ve admitted your sin, confessed it, made things right with God and others, and determined that you will live differently from this point on, it’s time to move on! Don’t keep living in regret, condemnation, and guilt. These are negative emotions that want to trap you in a world of self-pity, self-doubt, and defeat. Don’t let this happen. Instead, let any remorse that you feel fuel your passion to live differently from this point forward.
Don’t wallow—get up and move on! Take full advantage of the new morning that God has given you and live your life in a way that brings praise and glory to God.
Today, be the woman you wish you would have been yesterday. Overcome yesterday’s regrets by living right today and tomorrow. Remember:
“Well, we all make mistakes, dear, so just put it behind you. We should regret our mistakes and learn from them, but never carry them forward into the future with us.” L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea