Last spring, I messed up pretty publicly. It was the kind of mess up that you you wake up the next morning full of conviction and maybe even some shame. It didn’t help that it was at a wedding with so many of my college friends. Everyone saw me in one of my lowest moments. I was a train wreck that no one could look away from.
I spent the whole next day crying because I was embarrassed, and sad. I had no one to blame but myself. This mess up was something that used to be a pattern in my life, but I thought that I had moved past it. Truly, it rattled me to my core.
I remember the conversations in the couple of days after this public mess-up. I called my best friend, apologized for my behavior and asked her who else I needed to apologize to. I confessed to my roommates what I had done. It was almost as if I wanted everyone to know what happened so I could move on and forget it. I continued to be shocked by the responses of each of my close friends.
In my self-condemnation haze, I couldn’t remember what was true of me. I felt as though I was a sum total of the mess-up.
Yet with each person, I was met with grace.
Grace that I didn’t feel worthy of because of my mess-up. Grace that acknowledged what I did was wrong, but didn’t permit me to continue on in my shame. Grace that restored me back to what’s true of my identity.
One of my roommates spoke the sweetest words over me as I shared what I did and how I was feeling about it. Standing in my kitchen, she said, “Caitlin, God is pleased that you confessed this to Him. You are forgiven already. He just wanted you to come to Him.”
I’ve mostly broken myself of my perfectionist tendencies. But every once in a while they rear their ugly head. Usually it’s when I mess up. I often live my life in a way that says I believe that grace gets me 99% of the way to the finish line, but the last 1% is all me. So when I mess up, I cannot finish. I failed. My mistakes, especially the public ones, can damage my heart on a deep level.
Thankfully, I have incredible friends who continue to be my friend even when I mess-up, and restore me back to my right place. When I feel defined by my behavior, they remind that my identity is much deeper than one night’s mistake.
But the restoration can only come when we’re aware that we need to be restored, and when we ask for it. When I’ve felt the most disappointed in friendships, it’s when I’ve been the least vulnerable. Thankfully, last spring when I needed my friends to remind me of who I was, I was open enough to confess the mistake so that they could be part of the restoring.
Grace is freely available, but you do have to ask for it. Friendship can be part of the restoration process, but you do have to be open about your need.