“I feel like a failure,” lamented the voice on the other end of the line.
I could hear the hurt. I could feel the frustration. I could envision the embarrassment. I understood. I have heard it all through the years. Moral failures. Marriage failures. Parenting failures. Financial failures.
I also understood, because I have failed. Many times. Throughout my life. I have failed classes. Failed my drivers test when I was 16. Failed to live up to my parents expectations. Failed to win the big game. Failed to graduate on time.
In the past forty years, I know there are times I failed to be the best husband I could be. Or the best dad.
I’ve had occasions where I’ve failed to exercise the best judgement. Or be the preacher the brethren needed. And, I know there are times I have failed the Lord. Badly. Miserably. Foolishly.
Yes, I have failed through my life. But…..I am not a failure!
Let me explain.
If being successful in life is defined by never making a mistake, committing a sin, or falling short the goal, then we are all failures! Losers! Also-rans! Success in any endeavor is always preceded by some failure. The most successful among us are not error free. Anyone is a moment of weakness, stress, or pride, can experience a lapse in judgment.
Think that’s not biblical? Consider the failings of some of God’s great men.
Noah got drunk.
Paul persecuted Christians.
But God forgave them. Strengthened them. Used them for His purpose. And ultimately, in spite of failing, they did not die as failures!
Granted some sins have greater consequences than others. And some momentary errors of judgment result in greater problems than others. Yet, they don’t have to define who we are. We can overcome them. Rise above them. Move on from them.
It’s essential, however, that we learn something from our failures. William Bolitho once said, “The most important thing in life is not to capitalize on our gains. Any fool can do that. The really important thing is to profit from your losses. That requires intelligence; and makes the difference between a man of sense and a fool.”
But how can we do that?
John Maxwell suggests asking these 5 questions whenever you experience some failure in your life.
(1) What caused the failure? What went wrong? Why did I fail? Poor planning? A bad attitude? Pride? A foolish risk? A failure to think about the consequences? Sometimes your problem is deeper than it seems on the surface.
(2) What successes are contained in the failure? Even in the midst of failure, there is usually something good that resulted from the problem. Bible commentator Warren Wiersbe writes, “A realist is an idealist who has gone through the fire and been purified. A skeptic is an idealist who has gone through the fire and been burned.” Use failure to purify you.
(3) What can I learn from what happened? This is the big question. No matter what setback, shortcoming or adversity we face in life, there is a lesson to be discovered. But you must be teachable. Willing to see it. And ready to learn.
(4) Who can help me with this issue? Seek advice from others who can help. An older, wiser friend. A professional counselor. A preacher. Pastor. Or spiritual advisor. Humbly listen. And learn.
(5) Where do I go from here? Dr. Ronald Neidnagel says, “Failure isn’t failure unless you don’t learn from it.” Don Shula and Ken Blanchard, in their book, “Everyone’s a Coach,” share this advice, “Learning is defined as a change in behavior. You haven’t learned a thing until you can take action and use it.”
Finally, realize that God cares about your problems, challenges and mistakes. The Bible says, “Cast all your care upon him, for He cares for you (1 Pet 5:7). “Cast your burden upon the Lord and He shall sustain you” (Ps. 55:22)
Just because you’ve failed, you’re not a failure! Don’t give up! Get up! Get going! And give it a new effort!
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman