Thursday, May 5, 2016

Failure. The End, or The Beginning?

What do you do with failure?

For many of us, failure is one of our greatest fears, and we expend immense effort to avoid it at all cost. If we can’t avoid it, our next option is to defend our fragile egos from feeling  it. We set low expectations, slipping in to Eeyore/Chicken Little mode and become frantic or despondent, or we prepare excuses for why things didn’t pan out and how it wasn’t our fault.  We spend so much energy avoiding or minimizing failure that perhaps it’s time to take a look at what failure actually is (or isn’t) and maybe shift our perspective a bit.
If you ever google “quotes on failure” you will be met with a variety of remarks, ranging from trite to truth, but my favorite ones are from those folks who by most accounts are counted “successes” in today’s culture.

Bill Gates: “It is fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”
Henry Ford: “Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.”
Michael Jordan: “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed.”
Abraham Lincoln: “My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.”
Winston Churchill: “Success consists of going from failure to failure without a loss of enthusiasm… Success is not final, Failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts.”
Albert Einstein: “Anyone who has never made mistakes has never tried anything new.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Our greatest glory is not  in never failing, but in rising up every time we fall.”
Francis Chan: “Our greatest fear should not be the fear of failure, but of succeeding at the things in life that don’t really matter.”

The quotations go on, but the theme from  those who have known “success” is the same, the price of success is failure. How we learn to “handle” our failures will determine whether we become one of these success stories, or whether we fade into the oblivion of mediocrity.
We are a culture who exalts the winner. So much so that if you are deemed a “loser” it becomes everything you are and what defines you---Friends, It ought not be so!!  Those who I have just quoted are only “winners” because they refused to allow failure to be the last word of their story! Hollywood loves the “rise from the ashes, comeback kid” kind of story, but when it comes to actually walking it out in our own lives, we want to throw in the towel, shrink back in embarrassment, and “never do that again.” 
So what does it take to fight the status quo? Proverbs 24:10 tells us “if you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small,” and in verse 16,”for a just man falls seven  times and rises up again…” GET UP!! KEEP FIGHTING!  
But, you say, “It’s Hard.” Yep, it is!! There is a reason that “long-suffering” or perseverance is listed as a fruit of the Spirit! We can’t keep going on our own! When we have been beaten and bloodied by what life has to throw at us, the last thing that we want to do is keep going. But we do. Because HE did.
Hebrews 12:1-2 reminds us of the bitterness before the victory that Jesus went through. He despised it, but He kept going. Jesus kept his eyes on the prize. Through the beating, the crucifixion, and the grave, HE WON. Jesus persevered, and by his strength we can too. We are not immune to failure, in fact, it is what makes us strong, grows our faith, gives us compassion, and ultimately, brings sweetness to the victory.
So how do you handle failure? Own it. Don’t run. Don’t make excuses. Don’t give up. Allow yourself to be taught the lessons that can only be learned in the classroom of failure and the textbook of pain. Embrace it, knowing that you are in good company, and like all the successes who have gone before you, move through it. Linger long enough to extract the lesson, and then Keep Going.

 “Failure is not Fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts.”

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