Admitting a mistake is hard to do

There are many universal truths, and here’s one of them. No one likes to admit when he or she is wrong, whether in sports or in life generally.

How often do you hear an official admit to making a bad call during a game? How often does a coach admit he or she was wrong in some way that affected the outcome of the game? How often do players admit they were wrong to react as they did to an emotional situation? How often do fans admit that their behavior was unacceptable at sporting events?

When was the last time you heard a politician admit to making a bad policy?

How often do employees admit they did something wrong, or how often do employers admit to their employees when they were wrong?

The media also has a difficult time admitting mistakes. In my 34 years as a public relations official at Wichita State University, newspapers were willing to own up to factual errors when necessary. Granted, those mistakes usually resulted in a correction that was typically buried on the bottom of page 2 that hardly anyone noticed, but it was better than nothing.

I recall a conversation I had with a reporter at the Wichita Eagle who encouraged me to let them know when they had made a factual mistake, because even though few would see the correction, at least the paper’s database would be updated so the mistake doesn’t get repeated if the story was referred to in the future.

Admitting mistakes is hard to do. Maybe it’s because we’re afraid of what others will think of us.

On April 23, I saw a tweet by Tabor College Baseball Coach Mark Standiford. It read:

“Got a text from an umpire saying he missed a call in a big situation today and apologized for it. What a class act! He explained the rule in detail and how he misinterpreted it. Umpiring is a thankless job and I appreciate and respect them all. We all make mistakes.”

Wait! What? An umpire apologized for a missed call after the game to a coach, and the coach calls it a class act? Remarkable! What a class act by the umpire and Coach Standiford!

That tweet stood out to me because what transpired seldom happens. It’s not in our nature to admit when we’re wrong.

As a longtime basketball official, it wasn’t in my nature either. And yet, I can recall an occasion that forever changed my relationship with Friends University men’s basketball coach Ron Heller.

I was a young official at the time, and I incorrectly called a foul on a Friends player who blocked a shot. Shortly after I blew my whistle, I knew I was wrong.

As I reported the foul, Coach Heller loudly gave me an earful. Now I was in a pickle. I didn’t want to give him a technical, because I knew I missed the call. But I couldn’t let him continue to verbally abuse me without penalty either.

I walked over to him and said, “Coach, don’t you think I wish I had it (the call) over?”

He immediately stopped yelling, and my relationship with Heller was forever changed. There was a mutual / professional respect for the job each of us had to do.

Some time later, our paths crossed again, this time off the court, and he recalled that incident. He said something like, “You know, when you admitted you missed that call I realized I had two choices. I could continue to yell and berate you and be a jerk, or I could accept the fact that you made a mistake and move on.”

Thankfully, he moved on.

My Christian faith has humbled me more often than not. Asking God for forgiveness for my many indiscretions still doesn’t come naturally. And yet, the call to not just believe in God, but to also repent, is clearly taught in Scripture.

In life, not everyone graciously responds when we admit our mistakes. But the Bible teaches there is a God who is ready and willing to forgive us when we confess our sins, believe, and follow.That’s amazing grace!

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