How to embrace accountability after making mistakes.
Sometimes the moments when we disappoint those we cherish the most can teach us the significance and value of keeping our word. The death of my beloved grandmother, a mistake I made afterwards, and an important lesson taught by my dad left an indelible impact on my life. Applying the lesson in your life might elevate not only your life, but also those to whom you make promises. Let me explain.
As my grandmother neared her 89th birthday, she faced the death of her husband and the complete loss of her short-term memory. To be closer to our family in St. Louis, she left Florida and resided just down the street from our house. We cherished having her in town and our Sunday afternoons spent with her, even as her recollection of who we were dwindled.
During my freshman year in college, while engrossed in preparing for a final exam in my dorm room, the phone rang.
“Baby, are you sitting down?” Mom inquired.
Staring down utterly lost at the College Algebra book opened on the desk, I assured her I already was, as my mind remained focused on impending finals.
“Honey, your grandmother… she passed away earlier today.”
Though Grandma lived 96 years, the news still caught me off guard.
Mom and I reminisced about Grandma, shared our fondest memories, and laughed at her quirky expressions. We also discussed the upcoming funeral service scheduled for Friday.
Just before hanging up, Mom added one more thing: “By the way, Dad is of course very sad about this. Make sure you call him today.”
“Mom, I will. I promise.”
And I meant it. But when the call ended, my eyes fell back to the textbook, resumed studying, still hopelessly lost and certain I’d call my dad that evening.
That night I went to the library to study with friends who understood the material. After taking the test Tuesday morning, this 19-year-old caught up with friends and went to lunch. Then began preparing for the next test. But somehow found time to play in an intramural soccer game and enjoy late night pizza, before studying more.
On Thursday afternoon, four days after my grandmother passed away, the phone in my dorm room rang again. It was my dad.
Dad, one of the kindest, most forgiving, and grace-filled individuals I know, wasted no time.
“John, I know she was old. I know she forgot your name. But she was my mom. I loved her. And a phone call from you would have made a difference.”
My friends, I don’t remember a thing about College Algebra and today struggle helping my children with their grade school math. I don’t recall the World History exam the following day and barely passed Macroeconomics the day after that. Yet, that brief, painful, and candid conversation with my dad 30 years later remains etched in my memory.
“John, I know she was old. I know she forgot your name. But she was my Mom. I loved her. And a phone call from you would have made a difference.”
If you’ve read this far, it’s easy to pass judgment. What were you thinking, John? How selfish could you be? You didn’t even call your dad when his mom passed away?
And, my friends, I completely agree with you.
However, I implore you to reflect on your life, your commitments, your promises. We are all guilty of getting caught up, becoming self-absorbed, focusing on our work, our health, our problems, our stuff. We all struggle navigating hectic lives managing chaos, over-committing, losing focus, breaking promises, and causing disappointments.
So, how can we boldly take the next right step?
- Learn from Our Mistakes: Acknowledge and own personal lapses in responsibility and commitments. Embrace the times we break promises to others- and to ourselves- and the hurt caused.
- Ask for Forgiveness. After telling my Dad how sorry I was to not have called, I’ll never forget that he said, “John, I love you and always will. I forgive you and know you’re better than that. I just want you to act like it.”
- Do Better Going Forward: Make a commitment to improve, to keep your word, and to prioritize the people who matter most. Become a person that when you say you’ll do something, you always lives into it.
- Extend Grace to Others: We live in a broken world, require forgiveness from others and are called to extend that same grace to others. Doing so not only liberates someone else from carrying a burdensome weight, it frees us, too.
My friends, we won’t achieve perfection this side of eternity, but by learning from our mistakes, asking for forgiveness, endeavoring to be better and extending grace, we can we truly become people of greater integrity, foster deeper connections and enrich not only our own lives, but those we’re keep our promises to going forward.
It won’t change the mistakes we’ve made in the past. It just ensures we do better because of them.
This is your day. Live Inspired.
For deeper conversation about making mistakes, letting others down, receiving forgiveness and giving grace, join us on Zoom at 4:00 p.m. Central on Monday, October 2 for our monthly Live Inspired Together Call. This month, LIT member Chuck Jansen will facilitate a life-giving message on the power of forgiveness. Don’t miss it! To attend, register for our Live Inspired Together community and we’ll send you the Zoom link.