Let's just get this out of the way now...
You're a failure, and so am I.
It's not the first time you've heard this or felt this way. Right? The truth is, we're all failures, but sometimes failure can be a beautiful thing. From an early age most of us were encouraged by our parents, teachers, and friends whenever we accomplished the tiniest of tasks. That's how we built confidence and self esteem. We were taught that failure in any form was bad and we began to build our world and plan our future around not failing.
But then something changed. We grew up, and tying our shoes no longer came with the same cheers and accolades. In fact, about the time we discovered that Santa wasn't really Santa (sorry kiddos), we began to understand the hard realities of life. You mean we weren't wonderfully gifted at everything or immensely talented, or smarter, cuter, and faster? We were simply doing things for the first time, and by God's design those who loved us, encouraged it. But as we grew into adults, that reality didn’t last very long.
For a long time I felt shortchanged by my failures. My life had been marked by some incredible wins, but I still spent a lot of time pondering the things that didn't work out. As a technology entrepreneur, I lived in the tension between success and failure every day. I told myself it was a necessary paranoia, and the guys writing the big checks appreciated it too. But much of the time it wasn't healthy and it wasn't the easy burden Christ speaks about in Matthew 11:30.
Through God's grace I've come to realize that failure has been a profound and impactful motivator in my life. It's one of the ways God has allowed me to grow beyond my personal comfort and get past my fears. With God, our failure is the perhaps the greatest catalyst for life transformation and it's the key ingredient we all need to be more dependent on Him.
And, here's the key. We have view our failure through the eyes of God. He views our failings like a child learning to tie their shoes. When that happens, it can be a catalyst for life transformation, where the burdens that often accompany failure can be transformed into good. After some self-reflection, I've come up with my own way to reconcile the question of why we're so good at failing and how to see it the way God does. Here goes...
1. We live in a failed world.
Whether or not you believe in the Bible's account of original sin, it's not hard to read history or watch the daily news and feel pretty depressed. The world is a constant ecosystem of tension between good and evil. As Christians, we view this failure through the lens of Jesus, who takes our failures and transforms them for our good and the good of others. (Romans 8:28) Get used to failure and view it as a needed element in refining your faith. Once you've failed, you have the joy of helping someone else get through their failures. That's how the body of Christ works.
2. You've already been trained to fail by those closest to you.
People will let you down. Your parents, teachers, pastors and friends will leave you hanging out to dry. They're human and they fail too. We often "do what we see others do" and when so many are failing miserably around us, it's hard not to copy their mistakes. My Dad drank too much and it bothered me. But by the time I was 14 years old, I was playing dangerous games with drugs and alcohol. How does that happen? Why do we imitate those we love, even when it's self-destructive? Focus your efforts on learning from the mistakes others have made, not copying them. The best mistakes are the ones we make trying to achieve something God has set out before us. Faith requires risk. And sometimes, continuing to trust after we've been burned is a risk we have to take. (Philippians 3:14)
3. Our short term failures often lead to long term successes.
The author F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote,
“NEVER CONFUSE A SINGLE DEFEAT WITH A FINAL DEFEAT."
There are often many small failures on the road to success. From personal experience, I know that you can't reach any important outcome without a some failure along the way. Many times we end our quest too early. Don't give up. Failure is necessary to grow and get beyond our safety zone. (Ephesians 2:10)
4. God does not fail and will not fail you.
Philippians 1:6 makes us a promise that God will finish what he began in us. Sometimes we view our shortcomings or failings as a burden to God, but in reality He wants to take the very things that cause our pain and anxiety, and He uses them to transform our minds, situations, circumstances, and ability to help others.
5. Your failures can bless someone else.
We learn more from our mistakes than our successes. Some of us need to go through trials over and over again because we miss the lesson. But no matter the trial, God is made strong in our weakness. I would assert that if you seek the Lord's wisdom, get through it and then help someone who can benefit from your experience, transformation has occurred. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Sure, I’m a failure. But it’s nice to know that God sees me differently.