My Faith/Teen Faith/Virtue and Sin

Mistakes You Need to Let go of

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

I am a perfectionist. I obsess over insignificant details. My worst fear is making a mistake that everyone will see. I all too often let my self-worth rest on the standard of being flawless.

I’m afraid of my imperfections, and it can be tempting to think that this fear and anxiety is how God and the Church want me to feel. I mean, Scripture literally tells us to be perfect, right? But Christian perfection has nothing to do with standards that need to be met; it’s about knowing our imperfections and offering them to Divine Mercy.

Mistakes You’re Allowed To Make

We all mess up. So, instead of beating yourself up about all the things you’ve done wrong, here are some things you should surrender to God and let go of:

  1. Failing a test. Education should definitely be valued and pursued, but — take it from someone who used to think failing a test was the end of the world — there’s no reason to panic or be embarrassed. Learn from your mistake, and try to do better the next time.
  2. Yelling at your parents. Being a teenager may put a strain on your relationship with your parents. That being said, God has asked us to respect our parents, even when it’s difficult. So, pray that God may bring peace to your family.
  3. Dating the wrong person. I can’t count the number of times I’ve listened as my friends beat themselves up for dating the wrong person or staying with that person even when they knew they should have ended the relationship. The most important thing, though, is that you acknowledge why the relationship wasn’t worth pursuing and learn from it.
  4. Going “too far” with him/her. This one is a follow-up to the last one. Sometimes, the reason a relationship is a mistake is because we’re with someone who pressures us to be unchaste. Even if both people in the relationship are committed to chastity, you might still fall to temptation. But here’s the thing: even a lifetime of feeling guilty cannot heal those wounds. Only God’s grace can truly heal those wounds. So seek out His grace in Confession, and leave the guilt at the cross.
  5. Putting your foot in your mouth. This is one I have to put conscious effort into forgiving myself for. I say awkward things, I get nervous around people, and I almost always end up putting my foot in my mouth. The important lesson here is to realize that our self-worth does not come from what other people think of us; it comes from our Father alone.
  6. Taking a risk, and failing. Sometimes it’s the things we don’t do that cause us to regret. Often times, the reason we’re too scared to speak up or try something new is because we’re afraid of messing things up. But, life is messy and that’s OK. Be not afraid. God’s goodness and grace will come through for you no matter how many times you fail.
  7. Drinking. Whether this has become a frequent habit for you or you’ve only ever had one drink, you’re probably familiar with the peer pressure telling you that it’s no big deal, that most people are doing it anyway, etc. But truthfully, these seemingly small choices are important. Don’t be afraid to be different. If you’re trying to stop drinking and struggling, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  8. Gossiping. Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish between venting and gossiping, but, in our hearts, we know when we’ve crossed a line, even if we’re afraid to admit it. Gossiping doesn’t have to be the end of a friendship, though, if you can make things right and move forward.

The One Mistake That’s Not Okay

This list includes some examples, but, out of all the potential mistakes, there is only one mistake that is truly deadly: choosing not to ask God for forgiveness. God has given us the Sacrament of Confession to bring us His grace, to give us healing, and to allow us to draw close to Him. Don’t let sin, no matter how big or how small, make you question your goodness.

In Life of the Beloved, Henri Nouwen says, “The real work of prayer is to become silent and listen to the voice that says good things about me. To gently push aside and silence the many voices that question my goodness and to trust that I will hear the voice of blessing — that demands real effort.”

Encountering God’s mercy has radically torn apart my “perfectionist” self-image, and acknowledging my mistakes has truly been a gift, not a punishment. In the messiness that remains, God has given me more peace and love than I ever could have found in my pursuit of perfection.

About the Author

Sophia Swinford

I'm a theology student at St. Mary's in London, but I'm still an Arizona girl at heart. I basically live off books, coffee, rainy days, and conversations about Jesus, who has stolen my heart and never given it back!

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