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“No life is a total waste. It can always serve as a bad example.” I’ll never forget when my best friend first shared this bit of wisdom with me. I was really down because someone that was supposed to be a positive influence on me was anything but. And I was disappointed, scared, and, frankly, angry that this man who was supposed to be my example turned out to be just the opposite.

Even the bad examples in our lives serve us in showing us how “not” to live. And that’s valuable information if you are humble enough to see it. And this bit of wisdom did something else for me; it softened my heart towards the one who let me down. After all, I have disappointed others as well. Sure this man had disappointed me, but even in his failure, he was serving me. Changes everything, doesn’t it?

Look at our lesson today in Proverbs 10:1-22:

A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother. Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death. The LORD does not let the righteous go hungry, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked. A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. A son who gathers in summer is prudent, but a son who sleeps in harvest brings shame. Blessings are on the head of the righteous, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. The memory of the righteous is a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot. The wise of heart will heed commandments, but a prating fool will come to ruin. He who walks in integrity walks securely, but he who perverts his ways will be found out. He who winks the eye causes trouble, but he who boldly reproves makes peace. The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. On the lips of him who has understanding wisdom is found, but a rod is for the back of him who lacks sense. Wise men lay up knowledge, but the babbling of a fool brings ruin near. A rich man’s wealth is his strong city; the poverty of the poor is their ruin. The wage of the righteous leads to life, the gain of the wicked to sin. He who heeds instruction is on the path to life, but he who rejects reproof goes astray. He who conceals hatred has lying lips, and he who utters slander is a fool. When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is prudent. The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; the mind of the wicked is of little worth. The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of sense. The blessing of the LORD makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.

OK, Here we see at least 5 Benefits from learning from others mistakes!

  • First, we AVOID failures. When I compare the lives of those who live selfishly with those who live godly, it’s easy to see the benefits of avoiding selfish living. The contrast is seen greatest in how a wise living child brings joy to his parents.
  • Next, we EMBRACE the labors of wisdom. Just watching the trainwreck that can result from selfish living is enough for a wise person many times to step around the potholes of life. But stepping around means the hard work of self awareness and attention!
  • Three, we COMMIT to the hard work of wisdom. It’s the lazy man and the man always looking for the shortcuts that compromise integrity and end up on the wrong side of wisdom. But when I watch that happen, I am invited to do the hard work of communion with God and my fellow man.
  • Four, we OBSERVE the benefits of wisdom. A wise lesson can be learned from those who are good with money. There’s a famous penny pinching radio commentator who is always telling us to “start saving money early in life.” Such a simple bit of advice, but so helpful. It’s the patience of observing the consequences of wisdom and the lack of wisdom that invites me to avoid one and embrace the other.
  • Finally, we ENGAGE good examples. By learning from the mistakes of others, I learn the value of surrounding myself with those who choose to live wisely! Turns out mom was right: If you hang around bad folks, you’ll be like them.

Today, are you able to learn from the mistakes of others? This simple bit of wisdom invites you to do the hard work of being Orthodox on Purpose.

P.S. Our Lenten Retreat in Baltimore is just a few days away! We are doing a book signing there as well, so bring your copy of “A Faith Encouraged” with you when you come to Annunciation Cathedral this weekend! Go to for more information.

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