How do you feel about failure?
I personally despise it. I don’t like doing anything until I feel like it’s perfect. But I’m learning that failure is inevitable and a necessary for growth in every arena of life.
As a youth minister, my job requires me to plan events and preach lessons throughout the year. Let’s just say it doesn’t help that I am a tough critic of myself. Some events are successful while others, not so much. Some sermons are great while other sermons…well, not so great. So when things don’t go the way I plan, it can be difficult for me to admit my failure and assess what I could have done better.
But this past year I decided to approach failure differently. I reflected on them, not for too long, but just enough to take ownership of them. I wrote them down in my notebook and examined what I could have done better. That way I could prepare better for the future and avoid making the same mistakes again. As I write this blog post, I can attest that taking the time to reflect has made a significant difference in my life, not only in preaching and planning events, but also in my character and spiritual life.
Failure is a natural part of life and growth. It’s the only way to learn and change for the better. But I must admit: failure is often a tough meal to digest. Many fear the possibility of failure, and as a consequence, they never attempt anything significant in life. Some people avoid failure because they fear the thoughts of people; others avoid it because they believe that failure will diminish their self-worth.
But here’s the truth: Our failures don’t define us. They refine us. That’s if we embrace them and learn from them, of course. God is not interested in our perfect performance nor is He interested in us pleasing people for approval. He is interested in our willingness to acknowledge our shortcomings. He is interested in us finding our worth in Him and not in our accomplishments. God wants us to trust in His grace as He uses our failures to teach us wisdom.
As the Apostle Paul quotes in 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10,
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Learn and Grow from Failures
“Experience isn’t the best teacher, evaluated experience is.” – John Maxwell.
I couldn’t agree more with John’s statement. A person could have 10 years of experience in any given field, but without reflection and evaluation, that person could simply relive their first year 10 times without achieving any growth. In other words, experience without evaluation can lead to complacency.
Reflection is pivotal because it reveals our areas of improvement, allowing us learn, adjust, and grow from the experience. For example, I noticed that I’ve grown in my love and concern for others in the past year (which was a goal of mine), but I also realized that I still need to grow in being more vulnerable and expressive with my emotions. Because I reflected upon this, I am now in a place where I can focus on growing in this area.
Decide to Change
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill
Failure is not fatal. Failure is an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to grow and change as we learn from our shortcomings. I remember taking Advance Function Math in grade 12, a class that haunted me throughout the whole year. I failed almost every test and ended up with a mark of 40 %. But it did something good for me. It exposed my apathy for doing homework (the reason I performed so poorly on my tests). Since I failed, I had no choice but to go to summer school to redo the course. That was the turning point for me.
Why spend half of my summer repeating a course that I could have passed if only I tried my best? That summer I decided I wasn’t going to fail that class again. I completed my homework every day. Some nights I was up pass midnight. I even stayed back after class and sought extra help from my teacher. At the end of summer school, my final mark was an 85%, the highlight of my summer! I don’t share this story to pat myself on the back. I share it because it was a pivotal time in my life, a time where I reflected upon my high school career and decided I was done with mediocrity.
Whether it’s school, work, a sport, or your spiritual life, deciding to apply the lessons learned from failure is a highway to growth. Failure is inevitable, but it’s not final. It takes courage to get back up and continue moving forward. Don’t be afraid to fail, but use every failure as a stepping stone to reach new heights in all endeavours of life.