Failure is a part of life. We all live with the failures of others. More importantly, we also live with ours.
How do you respond to these failures?
- Do you get angry with yourself?
- Do you blame others?
- Do you deny your failures?
- Do you slough them off?
- Do you dwell on them?
My friend, Tim Briggs, wrote this blog about a lesson he learned in dealing with his young son’s failure in a soccer game:
After the game, we had a long talk on the field about what happened. When I asked him why he melted down, all he could muster in response was, “I couldn’t get the ball from him. He dribbled right past me.” There’s so much I wanted to say in response to his confession but found myself trying to find the right words that would resonate to his five-year-old understanding of the world. The simplest way I could explain things to him was to say, “It’s okay to fail.” I explained to him that failing was a part of sports. I explained to him the failing was part of life. I explained to him that failing doesn’t define him.
Interestingly enough, I think this whole episode has impacted me more than him. He has long forgotten what happened last weekend but here I am, still rehearsing the whole scene in my mind. Maybe it’s because I often feel the same way he does. Failure is so threatening to me because I idolize affirmation. I look to it to provide something that it can never deliver: significance, satisfaction, and salvation.
If you are at all sensitive to what goes on in your heart when you fail, you can relate to what Tim says here.
The gospel speaks powerfully to us in our failure.
The gospel acknowledges the depth and breadth of our failure. The gospel also declares God’s gracious remedy in Christ for our failures, making “him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” (2Corinthians 5:21)
As Tim says, this means our failures can no longer define us. God intention in such gracious provision is to free us from our fears and silly strategies to deal with our failures and into a willingness to embrace and admit our failures to ourselves, God and others.
For me, this doesn’t happen all at once. Rather, as I continue to bask in God’s provision in Christ, this happens over time. As I find my identity more and more rooted in him, I am able to let go, more and more, of the lie that my identity is tied to my behavior or lack there of.
This doesn’t mean I treat my failures casually, don’t evaluate my behavior, or don’t try to get better. It does mean the energy behind those efforts has changed. Rather than being powered by my fear of failure, or my passion for admiration or my dread of criticism, now my efforts can be fueled by the desire to show off this great and gracious God. He not only overcame my failures but provides me power to face my failures and actually change. This change is not just on the outside, dealing only with my failed behavior. This change goes much deeper and to a much more important failure, the failure of my heart. This change roots out the selfishness and self-centeredness that so dominates all my life and is seen in so vividly in my fear of failure. This change turns that self-centeredness to a God-centeredness that gives me more and more of his perspective on my failures.
Is it ok for you to fail? It all depends on how you see the gospel.