DEAR REV. GRAHAM: I’ve gone through life making bad decisions about almost everything — marriage, money, health, jobs, you name it. I always hoped my children would wise up and learn from my mistakes, but it isn’t happening. Why haven’t they learned from my bad example?
— C.McL. DEAR C. McL.: It’s not just your children who have failed to learn from the mistakes of others. Tragically, the whole human race has done the same thing, generation after generation. Yes, occasionally we learn from the past, but we soon forget. The Bible says, “What has been done will be done again. … No one remembers the former generations” (Ecclesiastes 1:9, 11).
Why is this? One problem is that we always think we will be the exception, that whatever happened to someone else who did wrong won’t happen to us. In other words, we think it won’t make any difference if we do something wrong or unwise. But it simply isn’t true. Bad decisions always result in bad consequences (as you’ve discovered in your life). The Bible warns, “A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction” (Galatians 6:7-8).
Although you cannot change the past, you can change the future. The first step is to turn to Jesus Christ and put your life into His hands. God loves you, and He wants to forgive your sins and give you wisdom for the future. Ask Christ to come into your life today and He will.
Then pray for your family, asking God to give you an opportunity to talk with them, not lecturing them or condemning them, but letting them know you realize you weren’t a good example to them. In addition, assure them of your love for them, and that — with God’s help — you hope they’ll learn from your mistakes.
Write to Billy Graham in care of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, 1 Billy Graham Parkway, Charlotte, N.C. 28201 or visit the website at