“Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.” – Otto von Bismarck
I was a teenager when I first heard this quote and I wish I had taken it to heart. There are so many mistakes out there to be made and none of them are new and unique. Each generation makes the same errors in judgment; they just play out slightly differently. My generation got into relationships too quickly and then had melodramatic break-ups that were the talk of the school or youth group. The next generation did the same thing, only they have very public Facebook wars. I cannot tell you how thankful I am that Facebook was not around when I was a teen! There’s no telling the inappropriate comments I would have made! (It’s a horrifying thought!)
The mistakes may look slightly different, but there really is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
But, I Want to Learn for Myself!
I vividly recall a young woman in my youth group complaining that her mom was always trying to keep her from making mistakes. In one way, she appreciated the concern, but in a bigger way she wanted to learn for herself. She wanted to make her own mistakes. I get where she was coming from (as I probably would have said the same), but in retrospect, what did purposely running head first into bad situations gain me? Unnecessary battle scars? Bitterness?
It is classic immaturity and foolishness that begs to experience the same situations that destroyed the previously generation. I’ve walked into snares that were clearly marked simply because I was curious. Those before me were able to experience the “thrill,” so why not me?
I Have Been a Fool
Though I wish I could say I took the road less traveled and learned from others’ mistakes, I was foolishly determined to do it my way. Even when clearly warned by God through His Word, by the Holy Spirit’s gentle nudge, or someone’s admonition, I still charged into relationships with reckless abandon. Not only was I so foolish as to not learn from those before me, but I did not even learn from my own mistakes.
Maybe this relationship will be different. Maybe it’s not really the Holy Spirit warning me to walk away. Maybe I’m just anxious because this could be such a great guy for me.
Time after time, I kept going back to the same place. “Danger, Do Not Enter!”
My Wish for You
On this day, April Fool’s Day, my wish for you is that you take a long look at the mistakes others have made. Listen to your parents when they say, “This is a bad idea and here’s why….” If your sister dated a jerk, learn from that experience instead of choosing the same kind of guy. If your spiritual mentor has an uncomfortable feeling when you mention an issue with your sweetie, take his or her advice to heart. If you receive a warning from someone who loves you and has characteristically good judgment, consider what they have to say.
God blessed me with a wise mother, grandmother, godmother, and spiritual mother. I had four women who loved and advised me over the years. Not to mention wise friends and other adults who faithfully brought me truth. Even with all these people pouring God’s Word into my life, I still chose to take my own path and make my own mistakes – well, I thought they were my own mistakes. In reality, they were the same old blunders people have been making for centuries. They weren’t even unique mistakes. I’m just thankful that God can use my past foolishness for His glory as I coach others in their relationships. Though, it would have been less painful along the way if I had just obeyed God in the first place.
If you are human, you will slip up. Sometimes you will dive head first into pure stupidity and then shake your head in disbelief at your own ridiculousness. ~smile~ Even if you strive to be like Christ, you will stumble. There’s no need to look for fun mistakes to make. ~smile~ You will find them whether you are looking for them or not.
The first step towards wisdom is taking God’s warnings seriously (Proverbs 9:10). The next step requires studying history, understanding the consequences of foolish behavior, and choosing to accept the lessons taught to you.
I hope you are able to play some funny but harmless April fool’s jokes today. Take some time between pranks to ponder what it means to be wise and how you will apply God’s wisdom to your life. Talk to those you respect and ask them for common relationship pitfalls you should avoid. Those who care about you will gladly point out road blocks. ~smile~
For added inspiration, check out the movie, The Song, inspired by the Song of Solomon and Ecclesiastes! There truly is nothing new under the sun!
Are you determined to learn the hard way, or are you content to learn from the experience of fools?