Failure

failure

It seems like the one thing we struggle with allowing people…especially children…to experience today is failure. At times, we treat the word, “loser,” as if it were the greatest slur in human history. We have developed contests in which there may be a “winner,” but no one is a “loser.” I agree that losing is no fun…and I agree that it can definitely hurt one’s feelings…and  sometimes watching the other team celebrate with the trophy is a bitter pill to swallow…but one of the greatest ways we can FAIL the younger generation is to never let them learn the life lessons of defeat and loss…

I ran track and cross country in high school and I was fairly competitive. In my freshman year, about the second or third time I competed in the 3200 meter run (2 mile), I won. It wasn’t a record time or anything…I just happened to be faster than anyone else in the race. I thought I was the man. I thought I would win from that point on. I was naive. I was wrong. The next race I ran, there were a couple of guys there that absolutely dusted me. It KILLLLED me. It absolutely destroyed my pride. I had to immediately start coming up with excuses as to why I lost. For the next 3 years I would continue to try to win, only to be outclassed (mainly because I wasn’t working out like I should have been), and I would always be second or third…until my senior year…my nemesis had graduated…and now it was my turn to coast to victory. So, with my same workout schedule (which was fairly lazy), I began the season. I’ll never forget that season’s first race…the 1600 meter (1 mile, which had become my focus)…I had it won…I thought…and then the last lap…this guy came zooming around me and left me in his tracks. I was so angry…so frustrated…and then the greatest lesson from losing hit me: I lost this race largely because I was lazy. I began to work much harder…MUCH harder…and he beat me again and again…until the conference championship race. I was going to win. This was non-negotiable. I had put so much work into it and I had made up my mind. And I won…by a good 10-15 meters. I remember something about that day…in the end, I actually didn’t care about winning…I cared about the fact that I had given my all in both training and competing. If he would have beat me, that would have been okay…because I left it all on the track.

Long story…sorry…but I told that story in order to express an important truth. Had I never lost repeatedly for all those years…and then had this young man not come along and surprised me…and beat me…making me a loser once again…I would not have learned the value of the hard work and worthy competition. Losing made me stronger…and part of the way that it did was that it made me realize that I was not the best nor the strongest nor the fastest…and that was a humbling moment. I realized that I would have to work very hard to accomplish my goal and that I still may lose. I had to be willing to accept that…and that was hard on my pride…which was one of the best things that could have ever happened to me.

One of my favorite historical/Biblical figures is the Apostle Peter. He seems to be the leader of the 12 disciples (who became the 12 Apostles) and he is definitely one of the most visible characters in the Gospel narratives. Interestingly, in several cases, we see Peter making a fool of himself. He seems to have been a bit of a big talker as well as someone that didn’t always think before he spoke. In the last article ( http://stirringsofthesoul.com/put-down-your-sword/ ), I mentioned something he did when the authorities came to arrest Jesus…He pulled out a sword and cut off the ear of a man named Malchus in an attempt to take off his head. Peter was once again reprimanded and corrected by his Rabbi for doing something so rash. Jesus had told Peter that he would deny Him three times before morning after His arrest. Peter swore he would never do such a thing. Of course, we know how the story goes. While Peter was being questioned about being affiliated with Jesus, he did just that…he denied Him three times…and Peter skulked away in bitter shame and remorse…

Peter went on through life, knowing that Jesus had forgiven him. He became a powerful preacher and leader in the early church…and even though he still had moments of failure (check out what Paul said in Galatians)…he changed so much. This same man that seemingly wanted to take on the world in defense of Jesus…in his twilight years he wrote that Christians should honor the emperor. The emperor of which he was speaking was Nero…a man that was nowhere near honorable…yet Peter says to honor him…because through all of Peter’s failures…he had learned his greatest lessons…lessons in humility…and those are most greatly achieved in moments of defeat or failure or dare we say…”losing.”

Peter’s words in the end were humble and honest and tempered in the fires of humiliation and failure…and they may well have been some of his best ones…

 

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*Image Taken from: http://radicalsuccessinstitute.com/conference/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/failure.png

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