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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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.”
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

13 replies on “Keeping Promises”

I’m sure this was not an easy one to write. Most of us want to push these things under the rug and not share them as you just did. But for me, this was another example from you of how simple kindness and keeping our word is an integral part of being the best human we can be. It’s also about how to forgive because we have been graciously forgiven at some time in our lives. It’s an important lesson, John. Thank you for your openness sharing it.

John, I wish God had given us wisdom at birth. If He had, I think I would have avoided placing my foot in my mouth on numerous occasions. Thanks for sharing your story.

Thank you for sharing John! It was so nice getting to know you on your recent trip to Anderson SC. Next time you come our way, I would love to treat you to dinner at Sullivan’s Metropolitan Grill. Gods peace my friend…Bill

I graduated from Catholic high school in 1969. My parents put 4 children through Catholic grade school and high school for 12 years. They were not wealthy by any stretch. Hard-working, God-fearing, and salt of the earth people. After I graduated from high school and was in the working world, I wrote a letter to my Mom and Dad telling them I thought paying for a Catholic education was a waste. My Father, who only had an 8th grade education, wrote a letter to me saying how much I hurt he and my Mom. I can’t remember anything else other than that and his signature, Your Loving Father. Oh, how I wish I could have taken those words back! Thank you for the reminder to follow through on our promises. Your illustration immediately brought this memory back and it hurts me to this day, yet I am so grateful for my parents’ unconditional love. I know you are too!

Thank you for this John. It is a great reminder as I deal with my own children. I would also add that if there was a mistake, own up to it as soon as you can. If you don’t, it is so much harder to forgive yourself as I have found. My father passed away 19 years ago, and I left a lot undone. Make sure you take the time God has given to make things right while you can. This is one thing that can’t wait.

I can feel this! As hard as it is, we all need to forgive ourselves for the mistakes we have made. Life is all about learning from our mistakes. Sending love ❤️


We are all guilty of things like this. Often, our lapses hurt the ones we love most. As you said, none of us can be perfect. But, we can learn from our mistakes and do better. Part of this is passing along our learnings……Thank you for sharing.

Oh, I have felt this pain on both sides. All of these lessons, though, make us the wonderful people we are! Thank you so much for sharing!

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