You’re going to fail – Why not do it successfully? We have all heard the mantra “FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION!” Nonsense. Failure is always an option. Sometimes, it is the only option. Sometimes, it is the best option.
My first job out of college was at Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Enterprise prides itself on customer service, so much so that employees are empowered to take whatever steps necessary to ensure customer satisfaction. It was not uncommon to discount bills, give away free coupons, and even send customers restaurant gift cards to make up for poor service.
Whenever these steps proved necessary, we would record what happened on what we called the “Successful Failure Log.” My manager was fond of saying, “If we are going to fail, then gosh-darn-it, we are going to fail successfully!” (He said something other than “gosh-darn-it,” but you get the idea.)
A New Perspective
Failing successfully meant mistakes were not fatal, but were opportunities to grow and innovate. There was a culture of permission to fail when done successfully.
So often in church life, we lack this permission to “fail.” We are unwilling to explore innovative ways of reaching the lost, of meeting needs, and of engaging God and each other in authentic community. Our fear drives us to do only what we have always done, because, while the results may be mediocre, they are known to us. They are what we can control.
However, our fear is rooted in a faulty understanding of failure. In one sense, we are all failures. We have all sinned and fallen short. If God was a boss who evaluated us with a success/failure paradigm, we would all be fired.
But He is not our boss. He is our Father. He is our King. He is our Provider and Protector.
All failure in God’s Kingdom is successful because God works in all things to reveal His glory and draw people to Himself. Even our sinfulness can be a means by which God’s glory is revealed as we repent, find forgiveness, and become victorious through Christ’s death and resurrection.
If we are faithful to a process of discipleship that invites us to look at our perceived failures in light of where God might be working and speaking, these events become opportunities for growth. Too often, however, they produce shame and guilt that paralyzes us from moving forward. If failure has produced these in your life, I invite you to return to the cross, cast these burdens on to Jesus, and be set free.
What would our lives as disciples look like if we embraced the freedom to fail and were committed to failing successfully? What would we learn? What would we see God do?
In one sense, the world’s mantra about failure is correct. Failure isn’t an option. Failure is a certainty. The only question is whether we will see ourselves as failing successfully.
Can you think of a previous failure in your life that became a catalyst for growth and innovation? How does this free you to embrace and risk new things in the future?
This guest post is from Eric Johnson who is in Five Capitals coaching. He has a history in the marketplace and is currently studying to be a pastor in the Lutheran church while serving as Vicar of Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Pemberville, OH. Read more on Everyday Follower.