We’ve all been Joseph Ossai

Joseph Ossai consoled after Bengals loss
Joseph Ossai consoled after Bengals’ loss. Photo Mary Clarke, USA Today.

The AFC Championship was brutal for the Cincinnati Bengals, especially for Joseph Ossai. His late out-of-bounds hit of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes in the final seconds led to a 15-yard penalty that enabled the Chiefs to kick a game-winning field goal. You can point to dozens of other failures during the game that cost the Bengals a Super Bowl berth. You can blame the officiating. You can list the bad passes, missed opportunities, and bad breaks. But it’s the last big mistake people remember. Bill Buckner’s error, Steve Bartman’s foul ball, and Donnie Moore’s blown save are the ones that stick in people’s minds.

And we’ve all been there.

I was the recipient of such a mistake in Toastmasters when a district governor’s misreading of contest results possibly cost me a championship. We’ve been in situations when our mistakes caused problems for others. We get an order wrong, miss a deadline, or back into someone’s car in the parking lot. While these missteps aren’t nearly as costly or public as losing a conference championship, they still make us feel horrible. We regret disappointing people who depend on us. We question our confidence, our ability, and even our sense of self-worth. We also fear that those we let down will hold it against us forever.

We must remember there’s a path forward.

We can make things right where we can, although certain things can’t be undone. We can learn from our mistakes. We can use these opportunities to grow and come back stronger and better. We can’t avoid the consequences of our actions, and those we’ve disappointed might not forgive us. But we shouldn’t let ourselves to be so confined by our mistakes that we don’t give ourselves a chance to do better.

The mistakes we make should give us grace for the mistakes by others.

In my novel The Remainders, a character says, “All of us are broken. All of us are flawed. All of us have sinned against God, each other, and ourselves. Until we see the grace in the brokenness in ourselves and others, we cannot receive God’s grace.” It is through mercy, forgiveness, and compassion that we can grow from our mistakes and give others the chance to grow from theirs.

I’m looking forward to seeing Joseph Ossai get back on the field to drive his team to victory (unless it’s against the Rams). And here’s to your own voyage to healing and growth.