If you are a leader or a parent, you can with certainty expect one thing: you will experience and be affected by mistakes of those you are leading or parenting. Therefore, it’s wise to have a plan for how you will respond to those mistakes.
Too often, fear hijacks us when dealing with other people’s mistakes, and we react with punishment and control. This effectively cuts off our ability to come alongside a person who has failed and offer our strength and influence to help them clean up their mess and overcome the issue that created the mistake in the first place. This is how we end up giving parenting and leadership in general a bad name. Do you know how many people are in counseling because of damaging leadership interactions?
So what can we do to respond effectively when presented with others’ failures, sin, and mistakes? Here are 5 steps to address our underlying fears, and move toward responding in love leading to restoration.
1) Recognize our fear of sin and mistakes.
Sin is messy. It hurts people and breaks our hearts. It can also seem daunting, if not impossible, to clean up. This experience of pain and powerlessness is scary, and if we don’t face this fear and choose not to partner with it, we will inevitably exercise our authority in the wrong spirit. When we do, we project onto God the idea that He’s just as afraid of sin as we are, which isn’t true.
2) Get God’s perspective.
God isn’t afraid of our sin or mistakes. 2,000 years ago He waged an epic battle with sin, took its full punishment on Himself, and won the victory to free us from it. Therefore, when He looks at us in our sin, He sees beloved sons and daughters who don’t need to be punished, but who need to hear His voice calling us to repent, be reconciled with Him, and be restored to who we truly are. As leaders and parents, we are responsible to confront sin, stop the collateral damage of sin, and bring correction. However, our approach must align with God’s heart and perspective–we must see the person making the mess as a beloved son or daughter. That means our goal is always repentance, reconciliation, and restoration. We need to believe that Jesus’ victory over sin is complete, and will triumph in people’s lives.
3) Keep the mess contained.
The Bible says to confess our sins to one another. That doesn’t mean every sin needs to be confessed from the pulpit or on social media. The basic rule of thumb is that the person who made the mess needs to clean it up with those who have been affected by it. If someone spills a bucket of paint and splashes some people, they need to help those people clean up. They don’t need a 500-gallon bucket of paint to spill all over a larger group of people. Keep the mess contained, and clean it up, instead of making a bigger mess.
4) Look for repentance.
In the church, we often see leaders make two mistakes with those who have sinned–they either give the “all clear” to those who have not actually repented, or they punish those who are truly repentant with heavy “accountability” requirements and limits on their freedom and responsibility. We need to be able to recognize true repentance, or lack of repentance, and respond wisely. Someone who is repentant is humble, submissive to getting the help they need, and ready to do all they can to restore the trust they’ve broken. They need someone to walk alongside them in that trust-building process for as long as it takes to be fully restored. Someone who is not repentant, on the other hand, needs to have clear boundaries set that communicate, “Trust is broken here, and we can’t walk together until it’s repaired.”
5) Work through restoration.
The gift of repentance doesn’t produce mere behavior modification; it produces mind and heart transformation, which creates the opportunity for us to be truly restored in three ways–in our connection with God, in our connection with others, and in their connection with ourselves. This restoration is truly miraculous–but it takes time. Every mature leader or parent who has walked through this process for themselves should know that the Father is infinitely patient with us in the midst of it, and that He never loses sight of or confidence in the ultimate goal He is accomplishing in our lives–helping us grow up to look like Jesus. As leaders and parents, we are called to represent His heart to those with whom we are walking in the repentance and restoration process. It’s our privilege to offer them the strength of our prayers, forgiveness, courage, hope, and vision as they work to make things right and become whole.
So, as you encounter the mistakes of others, remember:
It is for freedom that Jesus set us free.
A person’s mistake, no matter how devastating, is not the end of the story. God has grace for you to step toward a person who has messed up with extreme hope and vision for them to be fully restored and step into greater freedom in the process.
PS) For the month of June, to celebrate our 33rd wedding anniversary, we are offering 33% off all of our Life Academy tracks. Learn more here.
PPS) If you would like to learn more about how to keep your love in the face of fear and mistakes, take the keep your love on assessment here.