Failing is Not Failure
Nobody wants to be a failure. We all want to be a success at something, but everyone fails at some point. The question: is failing the same as being a failure? The obvious answer is no, but reality is that failing at something feels like failure. So how do we distinguish the difference and how can we see failing as something that doesn’t permanently define us?
So let’s understand terms. I came across this quote, but was unable to find the source. But it was so insightful that I include it here. “Failing means you stood up and took your shot, and for whatever reason it didn't work. That's something to be proud of. Being a failure, on the other hand, means watching other people take shots that could have been yours.” So this quote is saying that true failure is not even trying. If you try and it doesn’t work, that isn’t a problem, because you are attempting something. In other words, you are in the game playing and not sitting on the sidelines.
I also came across a series of interesting quotes from famous people that reiterate this concept of failing isn’t fatal. Quitting is the true failure in life according to these individuals. “Do not be embarrassed by your failures, learn from them and start again.” —Richard Branson (English entrepreneur and author). “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” —Winston Churchill (former prime minister of Great Britain). “There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” —Paulo Coelho (Brazilian lyricist and novelist).
So how does this idea compare to what the Christian faith teaches? After all if Jesus is in our lives, shouldn’t we always be “successful” in everything we do? For example you have verses like Joshua 1:8, which says, “Study this Book of the Law continually. Meditate on it day and night so you may be sure to obey all that is written in it. Only then will you succeed.”
While this Scripture is true it is not the complete story. The story here is not getting the right answer every second of the day, but trying until you finally achieve what you are after or find out that you need to go a different direction.
Thomas Edison is known as the inventor of the light bulb. He made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. When a reporter asked, "How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?" Edison replied, "I didn't fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps." Talk about a wonderful perspective on failing. Edison demonstrated what the above quotes are talking about, that failing isn’t the issue, quitting is.
So failing has benefits if one doesn’t give up. In Christian terms, it is perseverance. Look at Galatians 6:9, “So don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time.” While this verse doesn’t specifically talk about failing, it implies that we keep going through life doing our best with God’s help, knowing that at some point, victory or success will come.
I can tell you that throughout my life, I have felt like a failure because I quit pursuing what I knew God wanted me to do. If I would have kept going in the direction he wanted, I believe eventually I would have achieved what God was asking.
Having said that, I have discovered that even if I missed something that God was saying at the time, He is the Lord of second, third, and fourth chances. He is saying to start over and pursue what He wants in this season of life.
You can’t change the past, but every day is a fresh start to begin again. The only thing that you can stop you is YOU!
So what will you do starting today? Will you lie down and say “I am a failure” and nothing is going to change that” or will you say “today is the first day of the rest of my life.” We serve a God that has our best interests at heart. We serve a God that gives life purpose and meaning. If we really believe that, then today we can pray, “Lord show me what you want me to do!” “Lord, change my life for the better today.”
I have a threefold prayer I pray almost every day. One, help me learn something new. Two, how can I help someone. Three, how can I be more like Jesus. If I am praying prayers like that, I won’t be a failure. I may risk and at times miss something, but I am convinced that God will guide me.
Brothers and sisters, embrace failing, because that means you are not quitting. Don’t stop and believe that your life is over, because as long as you have breath, God will continue to guide you.
Today is your opportunity to persevere. You will reap a harvest if you don’t give up. God guarantees it. What have you got to lose? Nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing.