Tag Archives: errors

Hustling Errors


In 1992, Jimmy Johnson, then coach of the Dallas Cowboys, cut running back “Swervin’” Curvin Richards after he fumbled in the last game of the regular season.  That in itself wasn’t so surprising.  Coach Johnson had a temper, and he didn’t suffer fumblers lightly.  But what was surprising was that Johnson would cut Richards but defend two other players who made similar mistakes in the same quarter of the same game.

Truth be told, all three mistakes were inconsequential.  Dallas would go on to win the game 27-14 over the Chicago Bears.  They had already secured a bye for the first weekend of the playoffs.  The game was nothing more than a notation in the record books as this particular Dallas team went on to win its third Super Bowl in dominating fashion.

The problem was not that mistakes had been made.  Richards’ fumble did result in a touchdown for the opposing team, but so did Steve Beuerlein’s interception.  Alvin Harper also turned the ball over…and all these happened in the fourth quarter.  So, why didn’t Johnson cut all three players?  Why did Richards alone incur Johnson’s wrath?

According to Johnson, it was because Beuerlein and Harper committed “hustling errors” while Richards simply showed the sloppiness that comes from a poor work ethic.  Beuerlein and Harper were forgiven because they were hustling; they were trying to make something happen.  They were taking risks and trying to get the momentum back for an offensive team that had started to focus their attention on the playoffs before the game had even ended.

Richards, on the other hand, failed to execute one of the fundamentals of his job.  Had he shown more diligence on the practice field, he might have been spared.  But Johnson was irritated with the running back for his lackluster approach to the game.  Johnson used this opportunity to teach his team an important lesson.  There are mistakes, and then there are mistakes.  Mistakes made while taking risks and trying new approaches will be forgiven.  Mistakes made because of poor preparation will not.

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Filed under coaching, failure, forgiveness, grace, justice, leadership, management, mentoring, mistakes

Making a Mess


My youngest son decided to stand on the neighbor’s water line (PVC pipe) last night and broke it. Water sprayed everywhere, and we couldn’t get it to stop. Nor could we see well enough in the darkness to fix it or even assess what had broken.

I was furious, but my son’s reaction to my anger wasn’t very satisfying, so I increased the volume with some loud scolding. Still, he didn’t seem to be showing enough remorse, so I increased the volume again with a few growls and deep sighs of exasperation. They didn’t elicit the desired response, so I stomped off angrily and took a swing at an innocent towel hanging out to dry. That did the trick, and the tears began to flow.

After the adrenaline had worn off, I was embarrassed about my outburst. As I’ve thought about it, I’ve realized that my anger was less about my son’s irresponsibility (it could have happened to any of us – most of the plumbing where we live is barely taped together) and more about the inconvenience it caused me.

The broken water line had to be fixed – that meant a plumber after dark – that meant money, which we’ve been handing out like candy lately. I didn’t know who to contact in Thailand at that hour to come fix a busted pipe, and I wasn’t looking forward to interacting with our neighbor (who we never talk to) about something of theirs that we broke.

Probably my angry tirade did little to “teach my son a lesson” and much to make him fear his dad’s emotional instability when a mistake has been made. The next time he breaks something, he will know who NOT to tell. If I really wanted him to learn from his mistake, a calm discussion about respecting other peoples’ property would have been much more effective.

And for all I know, the event was God’s way of getting me to talk to my neighbor. He gave me ten months since we moved in, and I haven’t even ventured over to say, “Hello.” Maybe He took things into His own hands. To love my neighbor, I probably need to know him first. A broken water line gives us a reason to interact, and it puts me in the right frame of mind to be humble when we meet.

After I made my apologies to my son, we found that the situation wasn’t as bad as I originally thought. We were able to cut off the water. Then I wrote a note, and we stuck it to our neighbors’ door together (they weren’t home at the time). We had a short discussion about the importance of respecting other peoples’ property, and the lesson seemed to register.

This morning, our neighbor came out to inspect the water line while I was reading on the patio. We had a nice discussion, learned about some things we had in common and worked out an arrangement to fix the water line. I also learned that their family is considering renting our house after we leave. Since two of their children have grown and moved out, they need less space.

We talked about the house and the owner and agreed to allow for a walk-through later this week. Before that discussion, I was a little worried about how the transition would go with our landlord, but I feel better now knowing that he will probably have a renter as soon as we are gone.

In retrospect, my mess turned out to be much bigger than the one my son made, and it was harder to clean up. Glad my Dad isn’t accustomed to flying off the handle with me. His volume tends to be more subtly and skillfully applied.

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Filed under accountability, blame, christianity, Convenience, family, grace, Inconvenience, Interpersonal, leadership, mistakes, parenting, Relationships, Teaching

Wrong Turns


A friend of mine has a GPS, called the Verizon Navigator.  It helps her when she’s driving around to know how to make it to her destination, and she was excited to get it, because following directions is not one of her spiritual gifts. 

The GPS audibly tells her where to turn and how far to go.  When she first started using it, she was curious to see what it would say if she made a wrong turn.  So she did.

She was half-expecting it to say, “Hey, Stupid!  You made another wrong turn!” but it didn’t.  It simply said, “Recalculating course.”  If she went too far in the wrong direction, it said, “Make the next U-turn.”

It’s a wonderful picture of God’s grace.  When you make wrong turns in life, if you hear, “Hey, Stupid!  You did it again!” it’s not God who’s saying it.  It’s either Satan, or he’s trained you so well that you now do it for him. 

God doesn’t beat us down for our mistakes.  His response to us is, “Recalculating course.”  While His will didn’t involve you making that choice, it’s done can’t be undone.  God replots your path from that point on. 

  • If you got pregnant out of marriage, God says, “Recalculating course.  Provide or find a good home for that baby.”
  • If you married someone who wasn’t a Christian, God says, “Recalculating course.  Be a witness for Me to your spouse.”
  • If you used drugs in high school or college, God says, “Recalculating course.  Minister to others who have made the same mistake.”
  • If you had an affair, God says, “Recalculating course.  Confess and begin to honor your spouse and die to all other choices.”

Whenever we get too far out of God’s will, He says, “Make the next U-turn.”  Repent of the sin that you are in, and turn back toward God.  As soon as you do, He will recalculate your course.

What’s so amazing is that our poor choices never compromise the sovereign will of God.  Mysteriously, miraculously, He accomplishes His complete will no matter what we do.  He allows us to choose, but none of our choices are beyond His ability to redeem them.

He IS an awesome God!  And He’s also a gracious God, but don’t go making wrong turns just to see what He’ll say.

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Filed under sin, Spiritual Growth