I used to be so afraid of making mistakes at work. One wrong move, I believed, and I’d be out the door. I know now that’s not true, in part because the last few weeks have felt like mistake after mistake and no one’s fired me yet. I erased a client’s website data, lost forever in the depths of the internet, and didn’t respond in time to a super-negative review someone had left for another client online.

Oops. Major oops.

From working in client services for 3 years now, I’ve learned a bit about how to handle the sticky situations that arise when you have to ‘fess up to making a mistake.

As I was sitting in my kitchen this morning, drinking coffee and trying to decide what to write about, I thought about sharing how exactly I handle mistakes at work. As I sipped my peppermint mocha (yes, it’s that season!), I realized that my way of handling mistakes at work is exactly how God calls us to repent.

It’s all laid out here:

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

-2 Chronicles 7:14

And here’s how it looks in action:

1. Pray and seek His face by picking up the phone.

From one of my former bosses and now close friend, I’ve learned that the first thing you do when you’ve made a mistake with a client is to pick up the phone. Don’t email, don’t text, don’t pretend the mistake didn’t happen and pray the client doesn’t notice. Pick up the gosh darn phone and face the problem head on.

Last week, when I missed responding to a negative review for a client (part of what they’re paying me for!), my first step was to immediately call the client and explain the mistake I’d made. I HATE confrontation, but I knew it needed to be done.

When you sin yet again for the thousandth time after you told God you’d change, pick up the phone. Get in touch with God. Pray and admit what you’ve done. He wants to hear from you, and unlike a client, there’s NO way God won’t notice your mistake. He’s all-seeing like that.

2. Humble yourself by taking full responsibility.

When we are before God facing judgment, He won’t be looking for well-crafted excuses – He’s heard every one. He asks us to come before Him with humility and to be honest with ourselves and Him about our wrongdoing. Similarly, when I got on the phone with my client last week, there were no excuses. I explained what had happened and said the phrase “This is completely my fault.” And it was. I could have blamed my email or the fact I’m really busy or 100 other things, but the fact was that I was asked to do something, and didn’t.

Proverbs says it best:

Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.

-Proverbs 28:13

Don’t conceal your transgressions. Confess your wrongdoing to God.

3. Turn from your wicked ways by making a game plan for change – and taking the first step.

When I make a mistake with a client, I always make sure to lay out a game plan for how I’ll avoid the same issue in the future. It rebuilds trust between myself and my client and the exercise of thinking through a plan helps me ensure I won’t make the mistake again.

Before I got off of the phone with my client, I told her that in the future, I’d set up email alerts so that I’d see negative reviews as soon as they happened, helping me respond to them more quickly. I also emailed her later that day to let her know I’d not only set up email alerts, but that a review had come in that afternoon and I’d already responded to it.

I’m not saying you should make a game plan for how you’re going to magically overcome your sinĀ – that’s not at all what the Gospel is about! Instead, I’m saying you should make a game plan for how you’re going to rely on God to help you turn from your sin. For example, let’s say you really have a problem with swearing. Maybe your game plan is praying to God every time you get frustrated and are tempted to swear, and also avoiding going to football games with your friends since that’s where you tend to swear the most.

Once you make a game plan for turning away from sin, TURN! Do something tangible as soon as you can to get things rolling in the right direction. Today, I felt really convicted about not giving my time to God. I repented like I’ve outlined here, and then what did I do? I yielded my afternoon over to whatever God had for it, instead of making plans for the day. A plan without action is nothing but words.

When I started freelancing as a marketer, I expected to learn a lot about life and about working with people – not so much about my relationship with God. It’s funny how He can use anything as a teaching opportunity. While I’m no pro at repenting, I’m hoping that you and I – by thinking about repenting in this way – can make some progress toward it. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll make less mistakes at work this week. Fingers crossed!

What does repenting mean to you?

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