He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper.
—Proverbs 28:13

Maybe an unwanted divorce, an undeserved termination, or an unexpected lapse in judgment has left you sitting on the ash heap of a ruined life wondering, “Can I ever recover from this?” If that is true of you, the good news is that your failure does not have to be the final chapter of your life story. You can recover from your mistakes by following the principles we will explore this week.

The first step is admitting our mistakes. All of us make mistakes. Some of our mistakes are minor, like exceeding the speed limit and receiving a ticket. Other failures have more severe consequences, like an investment mistake that wipes out our savings. But the failures we are talking about this week are major mistakes that alter the course of our life.

The lament that accompanies self-inflicted failures begins with these two words: “If only . . .” “If only I had not clicked on to that website.” “If only I had sought help for my addiction before it destroyed me.” “If only I had said ‘I’m sorry’ before she died.”

The starting place for a new beginning after our mistakes is admitting to ourselves—and to God—that we have failed. That is easier said than done because we have an inherited predisposition to deny or rationalize failure rather than admit it. Why? Pride often prevents us from admitting we have failed. We believe we are immune from making mistakes. Yet the truth is that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Every one of us is predisposed toward failure in our marriage, our finances, our moral life, and our relationship to God.

Another reason some people cannot admit their failures is fear. When God came looking for Adam after his sin, Adam hid from Him (Genesis 3:10). Adam was paralyzed by the thought of having his failure exposed and suffering the consequences for his failure. That same fear of consequences causes many of us to refuse to admit our mistakes, so we do everything we can to cover over our mistakes rather than admit them. The problem with cover-ups is that they rarely work. Even if you successfully hide your failure from others, you will never be able to hide your sin from God (Hebrews 4:13).

Solomon offered this blunt observation: “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper” (Proverbs 28:13). Only when we admit our failure can we recover and even profit from our failure.