Middle school math seems far away for most of us, but we can all relate to failures and mistakes in our past. Perhaps it was yesterday, or maybe it was thirty years ago. Have you allowed your mistakes to define your character?
What we're talking about is an attitude which is dangerous when left untended - Overgeneralization. "If I have been rejected once, I will always be rejected." If you are allowing past failures to dictate future failure, you are overgeneralizing! Look for words like "Always" or "never."
We can overgeneralize our circumstances like Elijah did. Do you remember how he had battled with the evil prophets and won, but was running away from Jezebel in fear? In desperation, he asked God why he was all alone in this battle for righteousnes. He assumed that there was no one else who listened to God.
In his generalization, Elijah had left out the power of God. God had reserved a remnant for Himself - 7,000. Elijah was not as alone as he had assumed.
When someone criticizes us or talks behind our backs, we begin to generalize and wonder if everyone is thinking poorly of us. If you were rejected for a job interview and you assume that you will always be turned down, you'll never get back on your feet again. We need to remember that God is in control and that He will not leave us alone. One failure does not equal a lifetime of failures. One mistake does make you a "failure." Instead, it is an opportunity to get up and try again.
Often, when we overgeneralize, we are apt to imagine that we cannot change who we are. This (this sinful behavior, this bad habit, this fear) is a part of who I am, and I can't change that. This type of generalization about ourselves leads to passivity. We give up and give in and stop trying to do anything different. We think of ourselves as victims and live in hopeless pessimism.
Robert S. McGee says, "Too often our self-image rests solely on an evaluation of our past behavior, being measured only through a memory. Day after day, year after year, we tend to build our personalities upon the rubble of yesterday's personal disappointments." Taken from The Search for Significance.
There is a piece of the puzzle missing here: God's power of regeneration and God's redemptive work in our lives. He makes old things new and He breathes new life into that which was dead. He asks us to leave behind the mistakes of yesterday and move forward into today with a fresh start and fresh hope.
I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:19-23
If you're letting your yesterdays determine your tomorrows, sit down and search for all the Scriptures that confirm this truth: God is doing a new thing in your life.