While an ‘Edit Undo’ button for life seems great, I would rather learn from my mistakes


I recently had a conversation with my sister about the benefits of the “Edit Undo” capabilities in the Microsoft Suite. She uses Microsoft Excel for work quite a bit — a program that I must admit has baffled me for half of my life — and has come to greatly value how Control + Z (or Command + Z for you Mac lovers) can save you from making a massive error in a complicated mathematical sequence. In Microsoft Word, I appreciate how it can retract the latest attack on my keyboard by my 2-year-old. We’ve come a long way since the days of typewriter correction ink or Wite-Out.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could apply the same capabilities to other aspects of our daily lives? Take a wrong turn? Edit Undo. Say something boneheaded to your spouse? Edit Undo. Snap at your kids? Edit Undo. Spill your drink that gets all over the tablecloth, your food and your dinner companion’s lap? Edit Undo Undo Undo. Magnificent.

As lovely as it sounds, though, I suppose that an “Edit Undo” life would turn into a life dangerously devoid of consequences. There would still be plenty of mistakes and plenty of sin; we just wouldn’t have to deal with them. And with no consequences, there would be no learning, no maturity, no development of character — no striving to sanctity. Why work hard to try to avoid making mistakes if those mistakes don’t matter?

In the spiritual life, the consequences of our mistakes should lead us to greater humility, and growth in humility is one of the cornerstones of virtuous living — what St. Augustine called the “foundation of all the other virtues.” As St. Louis de Montfort wrote: “Frequently, even very frequently, God allows his greatest servants, those far advanced in holiness, to fall into the most humiliating faults so as to humble them in their own eyes and in the eyes of others.” The same is true for each of us no matter where we are on our spiritual journey. There is always opportunity for growth — we just have to desire it. And we have to work at it daily. This is conversion.

So, yes, mistakes happen, and our task is to make sure we learn from them. But, too frequently, I find myself making the same mistakes over and over again, then looking to apply a quick and easy “Edit Undo” to go back in time and pretend they never happened. When that happens, I know it’s time for a change. I know it’s time for more prayer, more attentiveness, more consideration of those around me and less consideration of myself. I know it’s time to love more intentionally. It’s time for more humility. For God did not call us to live lives of mistakes; he called us to perfection. “Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect,” Jesus exhorts us (Mt 5:48).

Despite our best efforts, though, we can and do still make mistakes. We are sinners, after all — descendents of our first parents who made a pretty big mistake themselves. But, thanks be to God, his own love for us is perfect and never-ending, and he awaits our return to him with open arms. As Jesus told St. Faustina, “There is no misery that could be a match for my mercy.”

The bottom line? While “Edit Undo” is indispensable in word processing and saves me from a toddler’s enthusiasm, trying to apply it to real life doesn’t do us much good on our journey to heaven. So I’ll keep trying to learn from my mistakes, I’ll keep working to grow in humility — and then I’ll copy and paste.

This article comes to you from Our Sunday Visitor courtesy of your parish or diocese.


Catholic News & Perspective

Provides information on the Church, the nation and the world from OSV, America's most popular and trusted national Catholic news source


While an ‘Edit Undo’ button for life seems great, I would rather learn from my mistakes

Monday, September 27, 2021
By: Gretchen R. Crowe I recently had a conversation with my sister about the benefits of the “Edit Undo” capabilities in the Microsoft... Read More

Opening the Word: Whoever gives

Friday, September 24, 2021
By: Timothy P. O'Malley The disciples don’t want anyone else performing wonders in the name of Jesus. After all, that’s their job. They... Read More

Get to know your Sorrowful Mother at Portland’s Grotto

Wednesday, September 22, 2021
By: Paul Senz The Grotto sits on a large acreage of natural beauty in the heart of northeast Portland, Oregon. Its full name is the National... Read More

Public good or personal freedom? It’s an age-old debate

Monday, September 20, 2021
By: Msgr. Owen F. Campion “The more things change, the more they remain the same.” That quip was made by an official in a diocese some... Read More

Opening the Word: Jealousy and ambition: The root of sin

Friday, September 17, 2021
By: Timothy P. O'Malley “Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice” (Jas 3:16). St.... Read More

The greatest Catholic novel of all time? It might be a 100-year-old Norwegian classic

Wednesday, September 15, 2021
By: Russell Shaw If you think a novel set in 14th-century Norway has to be dull, think again. Sigrid Undset’s Kristin... Read More

St. Peter Claver: A patron for race relations

Monday, September 13, 2021
By: Derek Rotty We stand in a moment of American history that calls for a new patron saint in race relations. In recent months and years, we have... Read More

Opening the Word: The hidden Messiah

Friday, September 10, 2021
By: Timothy P. O'Malley “‘But who do you say that I am?'” (Mk 8:29). Jesus asks this question to the disciples near the... Read More

Christian, go home

Wednesday, September 8, 2021
By: David Mills She was peeved. A friend had come across a quote from a “motivational speaker.” “There are too many people who... Read More

The short history of Catholicism in Afghanistan

Monday, September 6, 2021
By: Msgr. Owen F. Campion The news is flooded with reports about the departure of American troops from Afghanistan. Fingers are being pointed,... Read More