Need help moving forward after a mistake? It’s easy to be consumed by a past mistake and fear there’s no hope for tomorrow. No one should allow their failures to hold them back and hinder them from moving forward. God has a future in store for anyone who accepts His forgiveness. Here are some ways to move forward from past failures, blunders, and mistakes, and go on to succeed.
1. Accept God’s forgiveness. No sin, shortcoming, or struggle is too big that God can’t forgive. When Christ died on the cross, He wiped the slate clean. But if regrets from the past are still causing shame, here’s an exercise to try: Write down any past failures and mistakes. Pray over them, ask for the Lord’s forgiveness, and tear up the paper. Romans 8:1 offers this hope: “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.”
2. Realize that everyone makes mistakes. No one is immune from making mistakes. Nor is anyone perfect. Failure is a part of life; before someone succeeds, they will fail. Winston Churchill once observed, “Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” Failure is inevitable, but giving up should never be an option.
3. Face up to mistakes. Owning up to a mistake is better than faking perfection. So, when the inevitable blunders of life happen (and they will), they must be corrected, learned from, and never repeated. Past mistakes can become lessons that build character. The best place to start is by being vulnerable enough to open up about a mistake and take steps to make amends. The sooner the problem is addressed, the better.
4. Anticipate making mistakes. One should expect to make mistakes—and plenty of them—because it’s impossible to do everything right all the time. However, it’s best to anticipate a misstep to avoid it altogether. Proverbs 14:8 says, “The prudent understand where they are going, but fools deceive themselves.”
5. Rise above mistakes. Even when one’s pride is bruised, one must face up to their mistakes and rise above them. Past failures do not have to define a person unless they let them. The Bible is full of examples of people who rose above their mistakes. Here are a few examples: David committed adultery and murder; Peter denied Christ three times; Paul murdered Christians. No one can fall too low that God cannot bring them up.
6. Turn a mistake into a stepping stone. Ever make a supersized blunder or two? Of course, everyone has! Albert Einstein said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” After making a mistake, ask: “Did I make the mistake into a stumbling block or a stepping stone?” The answer will make all the difference. Have the courage to share about a mistake with someone else—it might be the encouragement they need to overcome their struggles.
7. Never make the same mistake twice. Someone once said that a mistake made more than once becomes a decision. Although mistakes are an inevitable part of life’s journey, repeated mistakes should not be. Journal to discover any patterns. Then talk to a friend, pastor, accountability partner, or counselor. Being aware is the key to preventing it from happening again.
8. Trust God to finish the work He started. When a child makes one mistake, a loving parent doesn’t disown them but helps them learn. Likewise, when a child of God makes a mistake, their heavenly Father doesn’t stop working their life—He’s just getting started! Here’s what the Bible promises: “God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (Philippians 1:6).
Steve Arterburn is the founder and chairman of New Life Ministries and host of the syndicated Christian counseling talk show New Life Live!