Getting Good at Failing

If I’m honest, there’s not a whole of things that I’ve failed at in my life. I mean, not really. Sure, there were tests in school I didn’t ace and sports games where my team didn’t win, but in terms of really major screw-ups, I can’t point to much in my life.

But the times I have failed have been hard. Mostly because I’m not good at it. But the truth is, failing is a pretty basic part of life, and the longer I live, the more I’ll fail. Whether it’s at work, in a marriage or as a parent, I’ll never really get to a point where I won’t fail at something.

A few weeks ago at work I sent an email that I shouldn’t have, and it became a huge issue that had to be sorted out. Even though my intention was to simply respond to a question, in hindsight I didn’t communicate things the right way. And I felt like a huge failure. That situation was on my mind for weeks, and I kept going back to that one mistake in my mind, until it escalated into a way bigger deal to me than it was in reality.

But what if failing is a skill that we can learn? What if the more we do it, the more we learn how to do it well? It was easy for that mistake to define me and to determine how I felt about my worth as an employee. Not that any of us are looking for opportunities to mess up, but since they are an inevitable part of life, how can we learn from them and allow them to make us better?

That’s why I appreciate these words from Jon Acuff. It’s a note he wrote himself, and we could all use the reminder:

“Though fear tries to tell me otherwise, the truth is that the size of my failures will never eclipse God’s ability to redeem them.”

Whether you’ve failed at something really huge or something completely insignificant, isn’t it nice to know God can and does redeem all of it for His glory? And guess what. That failure that seemed so huge to me at the time turned out to be no big deal. It was a reminder for everyone involved to communicate better and more directly, but at the end of the day, I lost sleep and beat myself up for nothing.

But now I know that when I fail at the next work situation, or when I hurt my friend’s feelings or when I unintentionally say something hurtful to a guy I’m dating, I can look back on this example to remind me that I’m more than my mistakes. The thing about mistakes is that they can be an opportunity for growth, if we let them.

What have you learned from your failures? Are you good at failing?