Failure is inevitable.
No matter your work, craft, hobby, goals, endeavors, resolutions, level of expertise, failure will be part of the journey. I’ve heard pastors, artists, engineers, teachers, students, moms, and dads all talk about failures and disappointments. In other words, success is not a given whoever you are or whatever you do. There will be roadblocks, dead ends, disasters, misfires, miscalculations, and fiascos. There is simply no avoiding this fact. Failures will happen and the ensuring disappointment (or anger, sadness, regret or any number of other emotions) is part of the journey.
By way of definition: Failure is the absence of success.
The reasons for failure include, among other reasons, ignorance, inexperience, corruption, oversight, arrogance, or unforeseen circumstances. Depending upon reason for failure, the consequences vary and can produce an array of emotions: disappointment, anger, betrayal, or sadness (or all of these!).
Some failures are personal while others are very public.
Failure can be a source of wisdom and insight for the future. Learning from failure helps us to navigate the consequences, whether they be personal or societal. Stubbornness, shame, and arrogance undermines the potential for learning and growing after failure.
Failures threaten to humiliate us. To be sure, humility isn’t the same thing as humiliation. Humility makes room for growth. Being humbled by our failures isn’t the same as being ashamed. In fact, humility can make our failures the source of wisdom and strength in the future.
I had a man who was a leader in his community ask me once, “Have you ever experienced failure?” He was assessing my fitness to be a counselor and advisor to him. I was as startled as I was delighted at this question!
“Yes!” I said back, with a sense of real gratitude. His candor made me feel like failure was less like an incurable or chronic disease. I felt a connection with him. I felt strong, not weak.
Have you failed? Is your failure a source of shame? Have you been opened by your failure to receive grace and mercy from God and from others? Are you growing strong from that broken place? Are you growing more hopeful from that disappointment?
This is Holy Week.
If we are willing to journey with Jesus this week, we will confront the depth of our failures and disappointments on Good Friday only to celebrate His resurrection from the ultimate failure, death, on Sunday.