You Don’t Have to Learn From Your Mistakes

Does anyone like to invest time in something that is going to reap them no benefits? I surely don’t. One my little quirks (which can tend to frustrate those around me at times) is my need to know the end of things before they begin. I hate not knowing where something will lead. I must know where I am going and what is going to happen next.

I want to know what will be for dinner at breakfast. In my eyes, a wasted and less-than-tasty meal is an absolute tragedy. A meal once eaten can never be uneaten. I can never get it back. If it’s going to be less than wonderful, I at least want to be prepared.

I want to see if a book is going to be worth the time I am going to invest in reading it, and so sometimes I will actually read the last few pages to see if it is. True story.

I want to know whether Jack will die at the end of the movie, or if he will go on to fulfill his life-long dream of being a super-star xylophonist—and will spend the entire movie whispering my theories and burning questions to my bemused husband, who really just wants to watch the plot unfold and eat his popcorn in peace (yes, I am one of those people).

I just don’t like to invest myself in something that isn’t worth my time – and really, neither does anyone. But yet, we do.

So for those things we’re pretty much covered. When it comes to movies and books and restaurants we have reviewers that can tell us if it is worth watching, reading, or eating – they have already experienced it, and can tell you whether they felt like it wasted their time or not.

We get this principle when it comes to movies and books – but what about life?

They say that life is the best teacher, but I do not believe that the life I learn from has to be my own. Obviously, I can learn from my own experiences and mistakes… but what if I do not have to make certain mistakes? Why shouldn’t I get a head start and learn from someone else who has already made mistakes? Why not learn from someone who has already experienced what I am contemplating on experiencing? Why not fully investigate where the path will lead me before I start down it? Why not look at the end of a path before I begin down it?

There are lessons all around us every day, that will help us to be happy and successful – just waiting for us to observe and learn from.

When I walk down to the hawker centre (local food market) and I see a bunch of poor drunk men sitting around, talking loudly, and drinking all day. They do not look glamorous or successful. When I look at them, do I feel tempted to be like them? Do I want to take that first drink and risk being an equally un-glamorous, rowdy, and poor old woman? No, not at all. I can see from the end that if I want to be successful my best chance lies in staying away from alcohol.

It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink” (Proverbs 31:4).

When I see a man who cannot help but glue his eyes to every low-topped, short-skirted woman who walks by—regardless of whether there is a woman with him or not. Should a man (or woman) spend their time watching movies with sex and nudity, or seeking out pornography? No… unless they want to be a dirty old man. Does anyone want to become a dirty old man? It’s simple. Don’t train yourself to be one.

“I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?” (Job 31:1)

When I see the bitter and grumpy old woman that nobody enjoys spending time with—the one who grouches, complains and wishes for everything but what she has. When I see her, do I want to be like her? No, not at all. Then why should I spend my time wishing I had what other girls have, or complaining about and shooting disapproving glaces at my fellow commuters instead of going out of my way to make their journey a pleasant one? When I do these things I am training myself to be like that grouchy old woman when I grow up. When I see her I realise that I cannot wait to be kind. I must train myself to be kind now, to avoid that ending.

“Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, while the evil days do not come, nor the years draw nigh, when you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them’” (Ecclesiastes 12:1).

When I see a woman respected by her husband for her virtuous life—praising her virtues at her funeral. She may not have been the world’s picture of success, but she brightened up her corner of the world and did what she could. When I hear her praises sung, do I want to begin down the path that she has already taken? Yes, I can see that the woman who lives for God will, in the end, be praised by those around her.

“Charm is deceitful, and beauty is worthless: but a woman that fears the LORD, she shall be praised” (Proverbs 31:30)

Unfortunately I at times do not fully investigate the ending or thoroughly investigate all the potential plot twists as I should (What?! Jack cannot actually play the xylophone?! I did not see that one coming!). When I fail to look to the end of a course of action, this is when I end up hurting myself.

There is always wisdom waiting for me to apply to my situation, if I’ll just seek it out.

One such a time where this was the case was when we were looking to purchase a business, but we had to co-sign to get started. We started down that course of action, realised it was not a good idea, and left a small trail of devastation. We lost the trust of our friends and quite a sum of money… only to find out all too late the advice that was already there, just waiting for us to take:

“Don’t make yourself responsible for the debts of others. Don’t make such deals with friends or strangers. If you do, your words will trap you. You will be under the power of other people, so you must go and free yourself. Beg them to free you from that debt. Don’t wait to rest or sleep. Escape from that trap like a deer running from a hunter. Free yourself like a bird flying from a trap” (Proverbs 6:1-5 ERV).

If only we had sought out this piece of wisdom, we never would have had to make that big mistake. Too easy, right?

Basically, the whole book of Proverbs is one big collection of observations of what happens to people when they undertake certain actions and lifestyles. If we were seriously in the Word more, we would have a lot less problems.

When I have truly searched out the end of the path I’m considering, I find my path strewn with blessings. A happy marriage. A successful career. Good friends. Peaceful times. No regrets.

And it can always be that way for us. We really don’t have to make a mistake of our own. We just need to look for the winners and follow them. We just need to choose to learn from others’ mistakes.

Read the last chapter before you begin.

Why would you want to waste your time learning about a man who ended his days a small-town, rag-time artist instead of a xylophonist?

Well, maybe you do, (I won’t judge), but obviously the more important question is, why would you want to waste your time and risk your happiness and success by going down a path that with a little investigation and observation you could know whether it’s going to turn out right?

God has a solution to your problems before you even get yourself into a problem, and many people have found that out the hard way – including myself. It doesn’t make sense to suffer when you don’t have to.

You don’t have to learn from your mistakes – because you don’t have to make them. You can learn from what was already written to save you from mistakes – and learn from observing the mistakes others have made.

Make it your practice to seek out the excellent things and excellent examples in life, and save yourself a lot of trouble.

“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:9, 10).

“Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us” (Philippians 3:17).

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