Failing

 

Failing

I marvel at people who seem able to live without any guilt, regret or sense of failure. Sadly, like many I can be plagued with feelings of guilt. Do you ever walk away from a conversation and afterwards say; “I wish I had not said that” or “I wish I had said something else instead”? Sometimes our guilt is unfounded and just the workings of our own imaginations, sometimes we really do mess up. Yet failing is crucial to us growing and learning. As children we do this naturally. We fall over, bang our knees, eat dirt and scream in supermarkets, all to the horror of our parents! These behaviours are all perfectly normal for babies and toddlers. It is how we learn. At some point as adults we may stop taking risks and behave as ‘grown ups’. We are taught by parents and school not to fail. That failing is weakness and to be avoided. Training and the counsel of the wise can help us to learn and grow with less failure. Nobody wants to hear their doctor say “I’ll have a go and see how this turns out Mr Bailey!” We need to be able to take risks to make real progress and that means getting things wrong. I might suggest the less we fail the less we learn.

Dr. Sam Collins, an expert on women’s leadership founded ‘Aspire’, a business helping develop women leaders. She has written extensively on the importance of failure after the experience of her mother’s death and being fired from her dream job. She talks about the importance of taking risks, following dreams and learning from failure. Sam discusses how conformity and trying to do what is expected of us narrows our dreams and aspirations. Taking risks and enduring our mistakes helps us to learn what is important, acquire new skills and develop resilience, all crucial to a happy and fulfilled life. Some people might say Christianity is all about not breaking rules. That has not been my experience. I have found freedom and forgiveness in knowing and being known by a loving God. No, the problem of guilt is not a symptom of faith, it comes from me! Deep in the heart of Christian hope is a God who embraced the most vulnerable aspect of our humanity: death. All seemed lost for Jesus and his followers, yet after the Cross came new life. Those who had abandoned Jesus were embraced and loved by him. If we can embrace failure in ourselves and others maybe we will be able to live more freely and release others to do the same.

Bob