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Why We Deny Our Failures

He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.
—Proverbs 28:13

Not long ago, I heard a journalist reporting on yet another political scandal. He made this comment: “It’s the same story ever since Watergate. You would think people would have learned that it’s not the crime that gets you; it’s the cover-up of the crime.” But our tendency to cover over our failures began even before Watergate. It started with Edengate. When Adam and Eve rebelled against God in Eden, their first instinct was to try to cover over their sin, so they made ill-fitting coverings of fig leaves and tried to hide from God.

When God confronted Adam about his sin, Adam said, in essence, “I was perfectly happy until You created that woman. She’s to blame for this.” Then God approached Eve, and she basically said, “Everything was going along great until that serpent You created made me a deal I couldn’t refuse.” That has been the tendency of every descendant of Adam and Eve ever since. When we fail, we deny responsibility for our sin. If we can’t deny it, then we blame someone else for it.

Failing to accept responsibility for our failures prevents us from receiving the forgiveness we desperately need and from experiencing the second chance we desperately desire. We have to fess up to our mess-up. I admit, confessing failure is not easy, and it’s certainly not our first impulse. We all want to cover over our mistakes.

There are three reasons we instinctively try to deny our failures. One reason is pride. For example, a wife convinces herself that a friendship with another man is harmless because she is too moral to fall into an affair. Or a worker takes all his retirement nest egg and invests it in a can’t-miss stock against the advice of his stockbroker because he feels like he knows better. Not only does pride keep us from admitting our failure, but many times it’s the source of our failure.

The second reason we deny failure is fear. We are afraid that if we fess up to our mess up, then there will be painful consequences. Many times admission of our failure results in termination, divorce, bankruptcy, or even imprisonment. Well then, doesn’t it make sense that we should try to hide our failure as long as we can?

A third reason we avoid confessing our failure is ignorance. We try to hide our mistakes because we actually think we can hide our mistakes. We are like the little boy who declares he was nowhere near the cookie jar, while cookie crumbs are dangling from his mouth. No matter how hard you try to cover up your mistakes, eventually your sin will be exposed and known by all.


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Fess Up to Your Mess-Up” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2016.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.


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