Guest blog by Jennifer Rothschild
In 1991, I sang the national anthem for an Atlanta Braves game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Prior to that, I had only sung the national anthem once publicly — at the opening of the Little League season in West Palm Beach, Florida. Let’s just say that first experience was a whole lot less intimidating.
“The Star-Spangled Banner” is a stirring, wonderful song, but no one has ever claimed it’s easy to sing. I was so nervous. I rehearsed madly, consumed bottles of Maalox… and then it was time to step out on the field. A hush fell upon the stadium as the players removed their caps.
I began. “Oh, say can you see… ”
So far, so good. My voice filled the stadium. I could hear it reverberating back to me with every note. But then, as I came to the line “and the rockets’ red glare,” I choked. Glottal shock! Have you ever heard of it? Well, 47,000 baseball fans could tell you exactly what it sounds like.
Glottal shock makes the singer momentarily voiceless.
I choked on “glare” and heard myself gag over giant speakers reverberating throughout the stadium.
In that moment, time stood still. As if in slow motion, I imagined 47,000 faces contorting into confused and shocked expressions. I wanted to evaporate. I wanted to drown in a sea of Maalox.
I recovered and belted out “and the home of the brave!” The stadium erupted in applause, and I nearly melted in sweet relief.
As my husband walked me off the field, he said, “Way to go, honey. Way to recover.” When I met up with my folks, my dad told me how proud he was, and my mom echoed the same. As I ran into friends, they were generous with their compliments. But all I could think about was the glottal shock.
That one stadium-sized mistake.
The broken word, “glare,” replayed over and over in my mind.
Do you know how many words are in our national anthem? To save you the singing and counting, I’ll fill you in. There are 82. And I sang 81 words well.
But those 81 words were overshadowed by that one sour note. I was humiliated and haunted by my mistake.
Finally, after several days of self-scrutiny, I told myself to focus on the 81 words I sang well rather than the one word I choked on. One wrongly sung word doesn’t define me, and, one wrongly sung word or mistake or regret doesn’t define you either!
It is so easy to see only our failures and get so frustrated that we can’t see our own successes. Mistakes seem to echo through our memory for years and years, but all the things we have done well and right seem to go on silent-mode. We need to be able to hear those 81 well-sung words loud in our memories!
So, what do you do when you have a glaring mistake that overshadows your success?
Here are 2 ways I have learned to manage my mistakes:
Our personal successes are often what we use to define who we are. As long as we do well, it’s all good, right? But, then the stadium-size mistake happens and we have trained ourselves to be defined by what we do. It is the truth of who God says we are that can and should ultimately define us.
Recognize that who you are and what you struggle with are not the same thing. You may struggle with fear or failure, but that doesn’t mean you are a scaredy-cat or a loser! You are not how you feel! Just because you have failed at something doesn’t mean you are a failure.
You and I are not our successes either. We are not what we do — no matter how well we may do it.
Your true identity is a child of God! You are a daughter or son of the King and when you grasp that powerful truth, who you are will define you, not what you do.
Identity statements will always begin with “I am.” “I am” is not the same as “I feel.” Find Scriptures that express your identity and remind yourself of those truths!
I am God’s workmanship. Eph. 2:10
I am fearfully and wonderfully made! Psalm 139:14
Don’t let feelings define you; let who you are define your feelings. Acknowledge what you’ve done but affirm who you are!
We need to notice and celebrate the 81 words we sing right but, we also can take that one sour note and learn from it. It’s healthy to acknowledge our blunders or how we blew it, but it isn’t healthy to obsess about them! Our mistakes really can serve us if we handle them well. If we don’t though, they will enslave us to defeat and regret.
Make your mistakes teachers that will reveal wisdom to you. Use that regret to refine your character. Study the anatomy of your blunder — how did it happen? How can I prevent it in the future? What does this regretful choice reveal about my character? Was this mistake something I caused or was it out of my control? How can this one poorly sung note refine me?
God uses all things — even the bummer things — for our good. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28.
So, my friend, let God’s truth define you and if you hit a wrong note, let it refine you. But, whatever you do… keep on singing.
Jennifer Rothschild is a recovering perfectionist who has learned to live beyond limits ever since her life drastically changed at the age of fifteen, when she lost her sight. Now, more than 30 years later, she boldly and compassionately teaches women how to find contentment, walk with endurance, and celebrate the ordinary.
As a speaker and author Jennifer travels internationally, offering fresh, grounded, Biblical truth to audiences who, like her, are determined to pursue healthy and fulfilling lives in spite of their circumstances.
She’s the author of 15 books, including the best-selling Lessons I Learned in the Dark, the popular Me, Myself and Lies Bible study, 66 Ways God Loves You: Experience God’s Love for You in Every Book of the Bible, and her soon to be released books Me, Myself & Lies: What to Say When You Talk to Yourself and Me, Myself, & Lies for Young Women: What to Say When You Talk to Yourself.
Jennifer and her Dr. Phil live in Springfield, Missouri, and have two sons Connor and Clayton and a lovely daughter-in-law, Caroline.