Three lessons failure taught me

Recently, I failed at something I thought I already had mastery over. Funny enough, I wasn’t hit from the shadows. I could see failure approaching but was too frozen in place to move out of the way, so failure did what it knows how to do best – it ran me over big time and didn’t say sorry.

I’m sure you can pretty much fill in the blanks of what followed – regret, episodic berating myself and self-pity. I bought tickets to the misery roller coaster and came off sicker than I started. I’m sure you’ve accumulated serious mileage on the regret roller coaster too, yet we find ourselves going back for more.

Beyond the crippling self-pity though, failure offers us many life affirming gifts. It’d be a waste if all we got from our defeat were tears. If we’d take a moment to see through the painful waterfall and disrobe failure, we’ll see that hidden underneath its harsh exterior are some invaluable lessons.

So, here’s what I have learnt from failure:

#1 Be done with self pity already.

Like, seriously, skip the self pity and just find another way round the mountain.

Save yourself the vicious cycle of self-flagellation, you’re only hurting yourself. You got ran over by failure and you’re now sat there on the side of the road feeling sorry for yourself. How does that change a thing? Maybe a better emotion would be anger – burning rage that causes you stand up, square your shoulders and gear up for another round of battle.

The devil (working in partnership with our conscience) is skilled at tormenting us with thoughts of ‘I could have’, ‘I wish’ till we send ourselves into a dizzy spell and still come crashing back to face the reality we’ve worked hard to avoid – you can’t turn back the hands of time. That being said, if anyone comes up with a way of turning back 2020, I’m happy to invest my life’s savings πŸ™‚

So, when you fail, just do yourself a favour and jump the self-pity queue. We’ve done enough of that to last us a life time.

#2 Failure is really when you refuse to learn

I love this line from Jonathan McReynold’s song ‘Cycles.’

“See the devil, he learns from your mistakes even if you don’t. That’s how he keeps you in cycles…”

Dear Christian, hope you know the devil isn’t some illiterate, dumb and naive personality. He’s a master tactician and strategist who knows you more than you know yourself.

Your adversary is very happy to watch you berate and scourge yourself with your bespoke homemade whips of guilt because guilt doesn’t change you. Guilt doesn’t move the needle one single bit.

The game changer is when you wrestle down failure, disrobe and dissect it to understand why and how it happened and gather intelligence on how to shore up your defenses next time. You’ve literally disarmed failure. Game over.

The devil doesn’t waste your failure, he learns from it.

It’d be a shame if you wasted your failure. The devil doesn’t waste your failure, he learns from it.

#3 Failure makes empathy possible

After my many encounters with failure, I’m learning to be gracious to myself and others. I say ‘learning’ because ever so often, I still find myself reacting with outrage at other people’s shortcomings. In those moments of self-righteousness, I forget that the hurdle I step over with ease is another person’s mountain which they have to scale with blood, sweat and tears.

It’s in those moments we’re all tempted to think ‘I definitely wouldn’t do that.’

Yes, maybe the person should have known better and should have overcome the challenge but fact remains that they didn’t. Does that make you better than them? Should we condemn people to the scrap yard of life simply because they failed one challenge too many?

Failure is part of the human condition

Unvarnished truth

It’s foolishness to point accusing fingers or to mock other people’s failures. If you can’t learn from their failure, the least you can do is to leave them alone to it. Your verbal lashings are surplus to requirement; more often than not, their backs are already scarred from the lashings of regret.

Let’s be real, failure is part of the human condition.

One day, the A* student will get an A on a test, the perfect home-school mum will raise her voice at her children even though she promised not to, the soft spoken manager who thinks he has his anger under control will bark at his employees, the second year university student who thought he kicked his pornography addiction will relapse, the small business owner will fail to secure the client that will keep the business afloat and the banks away. On and on it goes…

I’m in no way endorsing sin or careless living but I’m familiar with the story of Peter in the Bible. Undoubtedly, Peter loved Jesus. Though impulsive, his loyalty to Jesus was never in doubt until the day he vehemently denied his Saviour three times. Once might have been an accident, but three times tells me that he flat out failed.

Imagine if Peter was a pastor in 2020. What would I do to him on social media? Instead of rushing to join the virtual pile-on, would I take a step back to think ‘this could be me.’ Peter never thought it would be him, but it was.

From a card carrying, zealous disciple to a cowardly traitor – he couldn’t have written the script even if he tried.

Don’t callously walk by scoffing at other people’s failed marriage, capsized faith walk and anaemic business, you just might be looking at your future in the mirror. At the very least, learn from their experience and let them be.

If you’ve just been run off the road by failure, I implore you to please get up and learn from it. Peter later became one of the founding pillars of the early Church. As long as there’s breath in your body, you can always try again.

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