Embracing failure? Right. I don’t know many people who like to fail. I don’t. I try to keep it at arms length, not embrace it. We don’t even want to admit failure let alone embrace failure. Time and again, the fear of failure ranks as one of those top phobias. Yet an organization filled with people afraid to fail will rarely accomplish anything truly good. So here are a few random thoughts about failure.
1) Failure is one of our greatest teachers in the school of experience. Sometimes failure teaches us about our strengths — at least what they are not! Sometimes failure gives us a new perspective on a strategy. Sometimes failure teaches about perseverance. What have you learned lately from a moment of failure?
2) Almost always failure teaches us about our need for community. Mac Lake writes, You see failure without a mentor can be disastrous but failure with a mentor leads to development. For example look at the story of John Mark. He failed in his missionary assignment with Paul. He quit. (Acts 13:13) A few years later this failure caused Paul to reject Mark as a team member on a second missionary journey. But Barnabas (Mark’s mentor) would not give up on Mark. He left Paul to mentor Mark and that mentoring ultimately paid off because years later Paul told Timothy, “Send Mark because he is valuable to me.” Who do you have in your life to help you walk through times of failure?
3) Back to perseverance… I love the proverb (Proverbs 24:16) Though a righteous man fall seven times, he rises again. This seed of wisdom redefines failure. Failure is not falling…it’s quitting. If there is one thing that God has been planting deep in my heart over the last decade — it’s hope. Because hope is the result of perseverance. Where is God using failure in your life to plant hope in your heart?
4) Failure reminds me that I’m not God. I can’t be perfect and I don’t need to be perfect, because God never fails and the amazing thing is that by grace, he can do more through my failures than I ever dreamed I might do through my successes. Have you ever seen God do something amazing through your failure?
5) Failure inevitably brings critiques. If you are not of my generation or older, you may not realize that Billy Graham faced an overwhelming amount of criticism as he followed God’s calling. From religious fundamentalists to mainline liberals, he was often the target of demeaning and harsh criticism. In the book “Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham” the authors suggest that one of Graham’s leadership secret was that he turned his critiques into coaches. Ponder that for a moment and ask yourself, “How do I respond to my critiques?
Failure is not to be feared — though it’s best not to fail the same way multiple times! Embracing our failures can lead to some of our greatest seasons of growth.