The word itself is enough to give some of us a mild panic attack.
Generally seen as something to avoid at all costs, the fear of failing (or of being considered a failure) is enough to paralyze us when faced with the decision of whether to take a risk or try something new.
Maybe you’ve experienced that stifling fear of failure.
It takes different forms and can result in preventing us from attempting to make forward progress. It can sound like:
What if it doesn’t work?
What if I let people down?
What if people get mad at me?
What if I can't follow through?
It doesn’t have to be this way! Our concept of failure can (and needs to) be redeemed.
Why? Because the reality is that failing is an integral part of growth and progress. In fact, where you are in your life today is most likely a place you have gotten to through experiencing a lot of failure. As uncomfortable as it may have been, you probably learned more from making mistakes than you would have had you initially succeeded! But how do we make peace with the reality that progress - and eventually success - comes through failure?
Not to be dramatic, but to answer this question we have to answer the question “Is there a way to make peace with death?”
In a sense, every failure is like a small death. If we can find peace with "big death" - death itself - then we can learn to find peace with all the "little deaths" we experience through our failures. Why is death not something to lose our peace over?
Peace in the face of death is possible because of our faith in Christ’s redemption of humanity through His resurrection. In this redemption, in the empty tomb, we have the answer! Christ conquered death: there is no more reason to fear it.
If we believe that Christ has conquered death itself, how much more should we believe that He can bring life from our “little deaths” of failure?
Just as death is the doorway to eternal life, failure can be a doorway to growth, development, and maturity: the vessel of our conversion. Each fall or misstep along the way of conversion brings us back to God's mercy. We can look at each failure as an opportunity for the Lord to accomplish His work of resurrection and redemption in our lives.
It's a mark of our identity that we're made to grow and develop and mature towards our final destination: perfect union with God.
Moving towards this goal creates momentum in life. When St. Augustine wrote “Our hearts are restless until they rest in You,” there is this implied momentum. There's movement. There's an activity of driving forward. We're seeking, we're longing, we're yearning for something further down the road - our eternal home.
Viewing failure through the lens of our faith, we see that it can actually be a really beautiful doorway to growth, development, and conversion. Our failures equate to stumbling while running: you fail forward, your momentum carrying you. From there we can ask the question, “What did I learn from this? How can I grow from this fall?”
Knowing who we are and what we are made for, we can have hope that failing will bring us to a place of growth.
Rather than staying on the ground or getting stuck in our failures, we can pick up and move forward, all the better for the lessons learned from our fall. So instead of fearing failure today, how can you fail forward today?
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