Jul 26 2022

What to Do When You Mess Up

Pastor Dave Koppel

As soon as I turned 16, I applied for a job—I was hired on the spot as a cashier at a large grocery store—part of a chain. I was the first male cashier in the company—I was the experiment. I don’t know if they thought that males couldn’t count back change or if we didn’t have customer service skills, but they took a chance on me.

It was a good job. Yet it had its interesting moments. One interesting moment was when a man wearing a long overcoat ran up toward my register and was tackled by another man, and the man who got tackled landed on top of my conveyor belt. He looked at me, took a couple of cans of salmon out of an inside coat pocket, and said, “Ring these up, quick!” The other man yelled, “Don’t do it!”

As you may have guessed, the first man was a shoplifter. And apparently, he was a professional. His long coat was lined with pockets inside, each with a can or two of salmon—one of the most expensive things we sold.

The other man was a plainclothes security guard.

It wasn’t long before the police arrived, and the man was arrested.

He was caught in the act. If you ever been caught in your own sin? Whatever the sin, it’s a terrible feeling, isn’t it?

Years later, after college, when I was learning to be a retail mall manager, my boss instructed me to lie to a manager of one of the shops in the mall. The issue was that the store manager kept putting freestanding signs out into the mall, where they were in the way of shoppers, but the manager had thought that it was good advertising.

My boss instructed our maintenance workers to pick up the freestanding signs and hide them. My boss also told me that if the store manager asked about it, I was to tell him that I knew nothing about it and that we did not have the signs.

So, I did. And I got caught. Someone had told the store manager where the signs had been hidden.

I felt like an idiot, a fool, a jerk. It felt bad to be part of a deception in the first place, and second, it felt terrible to get caught.

I promised myself that I would never do anything like that again.

Let me tell you what I’ve learned in life: When you mess up, be honest, admit what you did wrong, apologize, and then do what you can to fix it. People will forgive almost anything if you own up to it, apologize, and do what you can to fix it.

The only exception that I know to regularly be true is if you lie to someone. Because then when you apologize, people won’t know if you are telling the truth or lying about it.

But for almost everything else, being honest about what you did, asking for forgiveness, and moving ahead to restoration almost always works.

Is there something you need to admit? Is there something you need to apologize for, either to God or another person you’ve hurt?

Take the time, own it, apologize, and move ahead, doing your best to make it right.

It will be a load off your mind, and the devil won’t be able to use it to beat you down. Give it a try. You’ve got nothing to lose, and you can gain your life back.

God is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love,” (Nehemiah 9:17)

“If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

And when someone else messes up, our job isn’t to judge, nor is it to “put the person in their place.” Our job is always to work toward reconciliation and to bring the person back into the fold. That’s what Jesus does. And that’s what we are expected to do as children of the most high God.

So, forgive yourself and forgive others, and when you need to ask for forgiveness, go ahead and do it. You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.

In His grip,