Failure is a Gift
Not always the gift we want...
“for the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity” (Proverbs 24:16, ESV).
“It’s a dangerous thing to follow a leader who has never failed.” ~ Crawford Loritts
Nobody likes to fail. Especially me. I’m a perfectionist. I’m my own worst critic. I hate failure. I get angry when I fail. But failure is a gift.
Yes. Failure is a gift.
First, failure keeps us humble. When you’re up in front of people every week, like I am, it’s easy to think you’re clever, wise, and far more charismatic than you are. If you get too annoyed that someone disagrees with your idea, that’s a sign of pride. Experiencing failure is an excellent refresher to call us back to proper humility.
Second, failure gives us the option to learn. “Learn from your mistakes.” Easier said than done! I’m often too angry that I made a mistake to stop and think about why I failed. But I believe it’s true that we learn more from failure than success. Sometimes, we don’t fully understand why something works until we know why it fails.
Third, our failures provide others with learning opportunities. I’m far better at learning from others’ mistakes than my own! As much as I hate failure, I must acknowledge that my failures are learning opportunities for more people than just me. I discovered this while working in a restaurant, training new staff. I lose count of how many times I could teach them a better method because I’d tried something that failed.
Fourth, and most importantly, failure reminds us of our constant need for God. When succeeding, I quickly forget that I owe everything to God. I can accomplish nothing without him. Failure keeps me more consistently grounded in the Word, steadier in prayer, and more dependent on God and the people he’s brought around me. In my work, I can’t attribute success to anyone but God. Failure keeps me in touch with that reality.
In 1974, a chemist named Spence Silver tried to develop a single-use strong adhesive for 3M, but he failed. Instead, the glue he invented was weak and reusable. What would anyone do with an adhesive that weak? It was practically useless. A few years later, another 3M employee, Art Fry, put some of Silver’s adhesive on notecards for his choir hymnbook. He found that he could stick the notes on the sheet music, then pull them off and stick them on another sheet. The result was the invention of Post-It notes! What began as a failure became a product that revolutionized note-taking and organization.
How have you failed? And how has that failure turned into a gift?