“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”
– Denis Waitley
I have suffered from a fear of failure. All my life I’ve placed this unrealistic expectation upon myself that I have to be perfect. I’ve intentionally and unintentionally done all I can to maintain the pristine facade I spent years building, frightened that any chip or chink in my perfect persona would be my undoing.
Still, in spite of my best intentions, I’ve failed a lot. I’ve failed relationally, emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually, financially, morally, and many others, I’m sure.
Why do we see failure as a bad thing?
Isn’t failure the bedrock of learning? As children we fail and fail and fail until we succeed at something, then we move onto the next grade or skill and the cycle begins again. I started taking flute lessons when I was 8 and it took me forever to learn how to make the proper noise come out of the instrument. Then, after I got that down, I worked hard to figure out how to place my fingers on the proper keys. This led to weeks and months of my mouth and hands being sore from this new skill I was learning. I failed constantly! But over time I learned and progressed little by little. Today, if you handed me a flute, even though I haven’t played in 8+ years I could hold it in my hands and play you a song (probably one of those marches I had to learn in marching band a million years ago).
This story isn’t unique. We’ve all failed at a lot of things in order to learn what we know now. So why do we see failure as a bad thing?
Let’s reframe failure as a launching pad from which we move toward success.
There are certain things that I do now, professionally and personally, that I’ve learned to do because of my past failures. More than that, I’ve looked at the failings, or what I’ve perceived as failings, of other people and have learned from their mistakes. When we make adjustments for the blunders and mistakes we’ve made, we can become even more successful. After all, success isn’t our greatest teacher, failure is.
“When we give ourselves permission to fail, we, at the same time, give ourselves permission to excel.” – Eloise Ristad
Lord, you are perfect and failure isn’t something you’re capable of! As flawed human beings this is unfathomable! Forgive us for our failures, we fail daily in so many ways. But I thank you that you are right there with us, willing to pick us up and walk with us as we continue to journey through life. Please continue to teach us your truth and help us see through your eyes when we and others around us fail. Thank you for your abounding grace. Amen!