Some people seem to have the cards fall their way all of the time. I am not one of those people. My plans go awry so often that I grow suspicious when they actually work. A result of this is I’ve grown accustomed to moving back from a failed effort and reevaluating—be it pursuing a job, relationship, or one measly hit in a baseball game.
Yes, one of my greatest lessons about failure was the result of me being a windmill with a bat in my youth. When I was about nine, I was playing in a kid-pitch baseball league through the military base I lived on at that point. I also batted a complete goose egg all season, until the last game where I got two hits.
The next season I got on base more often than not. But that nearly hitless season was, statistically, a failure. The funny thing, though, was that without having to push through that “failed” season, I wouldn’t have achieved the success of the next year.
Failure is such a dirty word, isn’t it? But why? I get that it’s unpleasant and sometimes painful. I get that we only like to present the best of ourselves, especially over social media. But haven’t we stopped to think about how we can benefit from failure? Instead most often our failures defeat us and constrain us into a box of a person less than what we could be. Oh that word: defeat. There’s one I don’t like. Merriam-Webster’s defines failure as a lack of success, while defeat is the prevention of success. What does that mean?
1. Failure is temporary; defeat is permanent.
It means that we are all seeking success in something, be it family, business, culture, or not burning dinner. When we fail at achieving success, it simply means that we don’t have it…yet. We lack it, but we are free to strive for it through another avenue. It means that when you break up with the person you were dating you simply need to try again.
Defeat, though, is when we stop trying. It can get in us and drag us to a halt. A defeated view of relationships is, “I was dumped today, so that means I’ll never be married.”
2. Failure can set you up for success; defeat prevents victory.
It’s tempting to call to mind Edison and a light bulb, but to be honest I’m not much a fan of the man or the cliché of doing so. Instead, I’ll use Moses as an example. He was living as a shepherd in his father-in-law’s household when he was called by God to go free the Israelites. It’s tempting to think if we’ve been sent by God to do something that it will be finished quickly and easily and we can check it off as a success. However, Moses had try keep trying to convince a pharaoh to release God’s people. God even hardens Pharaoh’s heart against Moses’ command. God causes Moses to fail. But through that failure Moses came to trust God’s promises, Israel was freed, and God’s power was exemplified to the nations. If Moses had let himself be defeated by those failures, he would have trudged off home and we wouldn’t know who he was.
3. We become defeated in relationships when we let failure prevent another attempt.
I’ve become quite familiar with failure in my life, particularly in relationships. Every attempt I’ve made to even begin one has been met with failure. It’s almost comical. But I refuse to be defeated by it.
Instead I’m motivated to try again, and again, and again if need be. Maybe God has planned for me to remain unmarried, but that’s not a call I’ve heard at this point. In fact, I’m still pretty young (despite how I feel when I have to explain who DC Talk was to a teenager). Until then I’m going to keep slamming against this wall until it gives. But I’m not going to walk away with my head down.
We have inherited a spirit of victory from God. Don’t be defeated, but don’t be afraid to fail.
If you know someone who is dealing with failure in relationships, will you encourage them by emailing this post to them?