Opening a retail store sounded like a great idea. Good products, a strategic location, overambitious owners—what could go wrong? And for a while, the hard work was exciting, until it wasn’t anymore. When the store failed, we felt like failures. Maybe you didn’t open a store, but you know how failure feels too. Believing that failing doesn’t make you a failure is almost impossible when the thing you’ve worked on so hard is collapsing around you.
Even though closing the store was the smart decision, it still stung. We’re achievers. We don’t fail because failing means we disappoint people. It also means we didn’t work hard enough to succeed. Obviously, those little life mottos aren’t true, but when success becomes your barometer for life, you become hyper-focused on what you can do.
We all fail
There I said it and I hate it—we all fail.
Just the idea of failing makes me want to curl up in a ball because I like to believe if I work hard and pay attention to every minute detail of life I can somehow achieve perfection. I realize this is unrealistic and generally unhealthy but it’s the truth.
Given the reality that we all fail (see the first 2 people created to demonstrate our propensity to mess up), my method of chasing perfection will never work. Imagine living in a perfect world and still finding a way to fail.
“And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” Genesis 3:2-6
Eating fruit from the one tree they weren’t supposed to eat from wasn’t exactly succeeding.
Failing isn’t all bad
I’m preaching to myself here; feel free to listen in as well. Failing isn’t all bad. Failing doesn’t make you a failure.
“And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.” Genesis 3:21
God didn’t give up on Adam and Eve after they failed to obey his one restriction. Their failure didn’t make them useless to him.
Sure, your ego takes a hit, but there are actually some benefits to failing.
- You can’t fail if you’re not trying. Think about babies learning to walk. Back and forth, back and forth, they wobble precariously on stiff legs. Just as they start making progress, you catch their eye, they lose their balance, and down they go. And we cheer. They fail and we cheer because they’re trying. Opening the store was a risk, but we were willing to try. (Of course, no one was cheering when we failed.)
- You can either be stubborn or you can learn from your mistakes when you fail. Those are the only options. I can assure you being stubborn doesn’t help you get ahead. No matter how many times I try, my kids will never like plain roast beef. If I don’t learn to cook it a different way and dress it up with some magical seasoning, they’ll complain every single time. It’s that easy with everything—make a change or don’t complain about failing.
- Failure keeps you humble. It’s not fun, but failure reminds us of our limitations and the need for other people. God created us with different gifts so we could bring out the best in each other and work together. You weren’t created to excel on your own.
Failing doesn’t make you a failure
Most importantly, no amount of failing makes you a failure to God. Your worth is not determined by the number of tasks you complete.
God measures success by your belief in him. All the other stuff—tasks, effort, results—they’re all the overflow of what he’s doing in you and it looks different for each of us. Writing this blog is one of the ways I show my faith. For you, it may be helping at school or sitting with a friend who’s going through a tough spot in her marriage.
I promise you, there is something for you but you will fail along the way. Keep trying. Make Changes. Get help.
Be Thankful–Embrace the Tension. Look toward God.
Enjoy the full Thankful series.
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