I was reading today’s post on People of the Second Chance’s website and they brought up the issue of how people respond when they are faced with their own failure, sin, and issues. How do we respond when we are caught in the act, even if being caught is only recognizing the issue in our own mind?

Do we accept our failures, take responsibility, try to change, and actively move toward different outcomes, or as their website stated do we respond with the 3 D’s: deny, dismiss, and downplay.

Being faced with our own shortcomings, problems, failures, or even just others negative opinions of us is often very hard to accept. The delivery of how we learn about it can make it even more difficult. I think if we are honest we all admit that everyone has areas that need improvement, we are after all sinners in need of a savior. Facing those areas and knowing how to respond is the issue.

There are three main things I have been learning about this:

  1. Our response shows the condition of our heart. Again, this depends on the delivery, but if someone is allowed to come to terms with the reality of the issues in a place where they feel cared for, safe, and are able to process through and grasp the issues (e.g. they are not distracted or stressed by others things) then the response of their heart will show the starting point and if the person is ready to embrace the issues and change.
  2. Honesty and admitting the failure brings a great deal of freedom. Personally I lived in fear and frustration for several years after the abuse I experienced but when things fell apart at my church last spring and I was dismissed I wrote a farewell note to the church admitting my failure, the sin in my life, my heart to change, and the abuse I had been through. That act alone led to significant changes in my life over the coming weeks. Honesty does not have to be that public, but it means that the person stops hiding and comes clean about the issues, maybe they share just with one person but in deep honesty. I now live as if anything I say or do could be made known to the world at any time, it forces integrity into all I say and do but also brings great freedom because I have nothing to hide.
  3. Taking responsibility can be hard, but ultimately it leads toward life, hope, joy, and peace. When we deny, dismiss, downplay, or blameshift to others we are not accepting the reality of the situation and even if we are only doing it for an hour or a day we are living a lie. Those decisions move us away from the place of really dealing with things. Ultimately if we deny, dismiss, and downplay we are not only hurting ourselves, but we are likely hurting others in some way even if it is just due to the fact that we are not being as healthy and responsive as we could be. Our decisions have consequences, and we need to accept them instead of making them worse. For the last eight months I have been trying hard to take responsibility for the ways I have failed. I have been willing to work with others, to look hard at the issues in my life, to have other critically assess certain things in my life, and to accept some very hard to swallow words from others. It has hurt tremendously, but today I am a better person, my life has much greater integrity, and I am learning to walk in completely new ways. I am standing by and watching some others right now in life that are choosing different responses and their are some consequences coming that could have been avoided if they had taken responsibility up front.

How do we respond when we are caught in the act? My advice is to hold your tongue (James 3), be quick to listen (James 1:19), submit to others so you can learn (Ephesians 5;21), confess our sins (1 John 1:9) and walk in the light, and devote yourself to the Lord and to others in community relationships (Acts 2:42).