Unfortunately, our society has grown increasingly hostile toward failure. Often, we seem to make fun of and show contempt for those who try and fail. With the addition of social media and the Internet, it seems that the mocking of those who fail is more dreadful. For example, when Steve Harvey accidentally named the wrong winner of a beauty contest several years ago, he was derided for weeks.
Failure and mistakes are not fun regardless. Succeeding feels so much better and seems to bring much better results. However, failure is unavoidable, so we need to cope with it and understand it with the right lens to take peace of mind from our failures and insight for our future.
I recommend the following understandings of failure to help us better grasp the reality of when things don’t quite go our way.
Bring the good out of failure. Look at how you won through it.
During my battle with addictions and wayward life, I went to confession every day for two weeks. I would leave the confessional each time fully committed to giving up my sins, but I just couldn’t. Something would happen, like I would find a beer in my book bag, drink it, and fall into a pretty bad night of drunkenness. I would obediently take it to confession the next day again, but it was frustrating.
I couldn’t kick my bad habits. My efforts seemed spent; I just didn’t have the strength to do it. The good news is, I did not need my own strength. God’s love would supply me with what I needed to overcome where I continued to fail. And this is exactly what ended up happening. What’s more is that each time I failed at staying sober, I only realized this need for God more. I was humbled by my failure and let this transform me, which allowed me to open my heart to God and let Him decide the path of my life.
A path that was without getting drunk and doing drugs, but was full of peace, joy, and contentment. Looking at my failure each day during this time in this way allowed me to see that I was not really failing. Yes, I was falling, but not back to where I was at the start. I was still better off and had more insight and wisdom than I did before. In this way, I could say that I was still winning. Every fall I realized this more, which led me to receive more grace, more of Jesus, and eventually strike the final blow to my addiction-filled hedonistic lifestyle.
Make your overall mission to serve the Kingdom of God, and then even your failures will help you succeed.
If everything we do is at the service of God and building up His Kingdom, then even our failures and innocent mistakes will be at His service. Romans 8:28 shares the undeniable truth that God brings good out of all things for those who love Him. So, we can rest in the consolation that God will use our failures and mistakes for the service of His Kingdom. Furthermore, our failures lose their degree of importance when we see them as only a minor part of our greater mission to serve God’s Kingdom. If we are giving our best, other issues can be seen as minor difficulties.
For example: if we go to college aiming to be mechanical engineers working in that field and all the while working to do that as missionaries of God’s love to help lead others to Him, yet we flunk out because the coursework is too difficult, we can still consider our time in college as successful because we worked to love others and lead them to Christ.
Another example could be seen in getting let go from your job. If you see your true mission as loving others and letting them experience Christ through you, then every job you have is merely a vehicle to do that. The loss of your job can be seen as a minor difficulty to overcome so you can continue on your mission of serving God and others. The job is really at the service of that mission, providing you a living so that you can continue loving. Therefore, if you lose a job, you are not viewing your life as a failure, because your greater mission is still going on.
Similarly, this can be seen with the many martyrs of the Church who lost their lives and not just a job. All the martyrs of the Catholic Church died happy, even if they left their vocations on earth incomplete with more to do. Even if this was the case and the world saw these men and women as failures, their witness gave rise to many more people being added to the Church.
Don’t judge your success by the world’s standards.
Sometimes what the world calls failure is a success, and what the world calls success is a failure. This can be seen with all the previously mentioned martyrs. Every single one of them lived out their lives exactly how God wanted them to and then went to heaven. However, if we use the measurements of the world, we neglect the spiritual aspect of life and we just see people died without furthering their cause.
Even Jesus Himself could be seen as a huge failure by the world’s standards. He was put to death during His rise as a leader of a movement. The world would say that He died without seeing the success of His movement. Many do not believe or understand that Jesus resurrected and now lives present to the Church He started, guiding it through the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ standards were misunderstood.
Another name for this tactic could be that we should not let the standards of others determine whether or not we are successful. If everyone knew that Jesus’ goal was to die so that He could pay the price for our sins and then lift us up through the Church, then everyone would recognize how successful Jesus was. I love the following quote from Albert Einstein, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
Our own success should be judged in such a way. Are you achieving your goals? Are you living up to what your talents can bring about? Are you striving to be the best you can be? If you find that the answer to these questions is no, then go back to tactic number one and see how you can bring good out of your failure at these things. Allow the failure to motivate you to rise above. Don’t let the pressure of feeling like you need to perform for the world crush you. Instead, allow the pressure of needing to find for yourself the peace and satisfaction Christ made you for push you to find it.
Keeping in mind these tactics as you face failure in your life will help you to have the right view of it and bear it more easily. They can also help you to respond to your failures and mistakes better to bring good out of them. Finally, it is best to keep in mind that despite what our failure is, it is never a reason to lose hope. Even if it seems like your entire world is crumbling down and you have nowhere to turn, Jesus is always there to help you turn your Good Friday into an Easter Sunday. With Him, every failure can somehow be a success.