Anger & Forgiveness

Your Mistakes Don’t Define Your Story

Jonathon M. Seidl

March 14, 2024 | 3 minute read

Have you failed? Messed up? Done the thing you don't want to do? This is for you.

This month, we’re talking about our stories. And even if you don’t want to admit it, our stories inevitably feature our mistakes and our failures. But I think you probably realize that. And if so, I want to give you some hope.

I'm a failure. I'm not being dramatic here. I've messed up big time in life. I've done things I shouldn't do. I haven't done things I should do. I've made some boneheaded decisions. I've said things I never should have said. I have regrets. Anyone who says they don't is lying. We all have them. “No regrets” is something people who have a lot of them adopt. That’s at least my experience. 

This morning, I was thinking about my mistakes, my failures. I'm getting ready to write about some of those this year. And I'm going through "all the feels" as they say. It scares me, to be honest. And while God has comforted me as I wrestle with that fear, I still have to continually bring it to him.

So once again, I brought it to him this morning. And he gave me something that blew my mind. And if you've struggled with your failures, then I think it will help you.

Here it is: Our failures and mistakes describe us, but they don't have to define us. Read that again.

Our failures and mistakes (our sins) describe us, but they don't have to define us. Let me explain.

This concept is something that is scattered throughout the Bible. Most of the main characters we see – the people who are held up as incredible examples of faith – made mistakes. Abraham didn't trust God. David had an affair and killed a man. Paul had Christians killed. Peter denied Jesus, despite promising not to. They all failed. And their mistakes describe who they were.


Those mistakes weren't the end of their stories. These titans of the faith didn't stay stuck in those mistakes. They kept going. They continued to submit their lives to God, to Jesus. And what happened? Their failures actually didn't come to define them. No, what God did in their lives became the bigger story. The full story. The God story.

See, the God story in all our lives isn't what we've done. It's what he does with us. It's how he takes imperfect people who make mistakes and redeems them and their stories. And it's something only he can do.

On our own, we are known for our mistakes. We will be known for our mistakes. And without God, the story ends there. But with God? He takes those mistakes and uses them as map dots on a bigger journey. A journey he is taking us on. Our mistakes describe where we've been. But God defines who we are and where we're going.

It’s the crux of every I Am Second video we’ve ever made. God takes our brokenness, mends us, makes us whole and creates something beautiful.

That said, there is one caveat. It’s an important one. It comes down to how we approach the mistakes we make: Are we simply guilty, or are we truly remorseful? There's a difference. Guilt says, "Dang it, I got caught." Remorse says, "I'm so sorry for what I've done and I want something better. Someone better. I want this to be used for my good and God's glory, and I'm willing to face the consequences because I rest in him."

Is that you? Have you failed, made mistakes, and are remorseful for it? If so, God is ready to use those mistakes to define you — to redefine you, if you will.

In the end, our mistakes show what happens when we try to do things on our own, when we set ourselves up as God. They show where we've come from. But God says, "If you turn to me, I define you going forward. What I do with those mistakes is actually what comes to define you." He helps us fail successfully.

I need that. You need that, even if you don't realize it. On my own, my mistakes would consume me. They would define me and become my story. But with God? Those mistakes describe me. He defines me. 

He rewrites the story.

I hope that comforts you. No matter what you've done, God can rewrite the ending to your story. He did it with me. He can do it with you. And when he does that, when your mistakes describe you instead of define you, something else happens: He creates a legacy for you. Not through what you do, but through who you turn to and how he uses what you've done.

That's a real legacy. And it makes your story worth telling. 

(Want to learn how to tell your story? We have a free resource for you here.)

Jonathon M. Seidl

Jonathon M. Seidl

Jonathon M. (Jon) Seidl is a writer, speaker, and digital media strategist. He’s the author of the #1 bestseller, Finding Rest: A Survivor’s Guide to Navigating the Valleys of Anxiety, Faith, and Life.

Search for what you’d like to read about