It’s a phrase that has become as common as “Have a nice day” in our everyday speech: “My bad.” The origins of the phrase are a little cloudy, but the consensus seems to be that it came from neighborhood playgrounds and basketball courts where pick-up games were being played.
During one of those games some unknown player acknowledged responsibility for a mistake—maybe it was a missed shot, or a bad pass, or a foul on another player (no one knows)—and instead of saying, “I’m sorry. That was my fault. That shouldn’t have happened, and I take responsibility for it,” he said, “My bad.” Two words, five letters. Accurate, efficient, and effective. Impact on the ongoing game limited. A phrase was born.
Pretty soon it was common to hear “my bad” on the courts in neighbor parks and in NBA arenas. Legendary center Manute Bol was famous for using and popularizing the phrase, although he probably didn’t coin it originally.
It didn’t take long for it to spread to other sports and then to other aspects of life. These days, everybody seems to have adopted it as a way of ‘fessing up to those little things in life that don’t work out the way they are supposed to.
Is there even one among us who doesn’t have a failing to confess? A flub-up? A dropped ball? A missed exit? An unsure hesitation? A bad pass? A swing and a miss? “My bad” is wonderful shorthand for admitting that part of who I am is foolish, failing, and faltering, but it is part of who I am, nonetheless.
To anyone who has ever had reason to say “My bad,” (and that would be all of us), the words of Isaiah 30:18 are particularly welcome: “Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion.”
God is good—all the time. In his care, even “my bad” is transformed, in every part of life.