Learn from the Mistakes of Others

     Elijah was the kind of person who easily got under the skin of those in power. The king of Israel was no exception. Ahaziah dispatched a platoon of soldiers to arrest Elijah as an act of vengeance. Elijah was discovered sitting alone atop a hillside. Elijah was outmanned by a ratio of fifty to one. This doesn’t imply that Elijah was outgunned. Elijah held the high ground, which in military stratagem offers a peak advantage. (I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist.)
     The story goes that Elijah was commanded to descend from his resting place. The implication is that if Elijah refused to comply, the troops would bring him down by force. Elijah rejects the order, after which a fire from the sky was unleashed, thereby burning the commander and his entire unit.
     King Ahaziah somehow received the after-action report and subsequently deployed another military unit to arrest Elijah. Unfortunately, this second band of brothers met the same fate as their predecessors. The sad part of this tale is that Ahaziah failed to learn his lesson the first two times, as he dispatched yet a third team to arrest Elijah.
     Mercifully, the commander of the final platoon humbly acknowledged his disadvantage before Elijah and pleaded for himself and for the lives of his men. In short, the commander was saying, “Please don’t punish me just because my boss has a thick skull.” Eleanor Roosevelt once offered this pearl of wisdom: “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.”
     Have you ever found yourself saying, “I’ll never do that again,” only to find yourself doing the exact same thing just a short time later? If so, you’re not alone. Many have repeated at least some of their mistakes at one time or another.
     But making the same mistakes over and over can be costly. Perhaps your family has lost faith in you because of your unwillingness to change tactics. Or maybe the errors created by your own stubbornness have cost you or someone else a lot of money. As the old saying goes, the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and again believing your actions will result in a different outcome.
     Yet like the third commander who was sent to arrest Elijah, learning from previous mistakes requires a healthy dose of humility. And, humility comes with asking one’s self a few critical questions. What went wrong? What can I learn from this? What could I do better next time?
     Of course, dwelling on your mistakes would be counterproductive. However, reflecting on them can be highly beneficial. All in all, avoiding repeated gaffes can prevent you from climbing out of the pan and into the fire.