~ March 1, 2013 ~

Why do “the successful” often reject failure?

Psychologist Archibald D. Hart feels, “Even in our Christian subculture, we see people all around us who are driven to seek success but have no idea what role failure can play in building success. They don't know how to receive it with grace. They are unable to incorporate it into their Christian experience. The church has, by and large, uncritically fostered a theology of success. In contrast, it has no theology of failure. If anything, failure is viewed as something no Christian should have to deal with. This has left many of the faithful believing that if they fail, it is simply because God has turned His back on them.” 1

If we are not careful, we displace our failures onto our employer, employees, family, and friends.

Our ego and our arrogance will not permit us to admit that we were wrong, or, for whatever reason, that “this didn't work.”

People who egotistically blame others for their bad decisions or failures have a level of arrogance that will not permit them to say, “I was wrong; I made a bad call; I will take the responsibility for this one.”

Employees that work for people who blame are constantly having to play by their boss' rules in order to keep their jobs and to be loyal. Most will do what they are told, even though they might feel that the direction that the boss wants to go will injure the company, or the church, or their own lives.

The kind of pride that many leaders have will encourage them to blame the staff, a parishioner, or a board member. Instead of sincerely admitting that they made the wrong decision, they find a creative way to keep their self-perceived reputation in tact while they unjustly put the blame on another.

Failure—inaccurate decisions, and poor judgment calls are part of everyone's lives. What can we do to accept our failures? How can we take a healthy look at making mistakes – or failing?

“It may not be your fault for getting down,
but it has got to be your fault for not getting up.”

–Steve Davis


Accept the fact that you will make mistakes; and when you do, admit it.

Many successful people think that when they fail, they are a “failure.” I might fall down a lot in life, but this occasional (or frequent) experience, does not make me a failure.

Everyone makes choices that are not perfect, or might be wrong. We can accept this fact and learn from it or not accept it and blame others when we mess up.

Don't fear your past failures—trust that you have a Creator God who will give you other chances to get it right.

The Psalmist David wrote:

“If the Lord delights in a man's way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.”
Psalm 37:23-24

“He will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.”
Psalm 55:22


Accept the fact that you are not perfect.

When we make a bad decision that results in failure, we are often shocked because it points out our imperfections.

I have met very few people who enjoy their imperfections. All of us have blind spots and we occasionally realize new tendencies or personal issues that point out additional flaws. This is humbling and at times embarrassing. It can remind us that everyone has feet of clay.

Since we all “limp” a little in life, we can identify with others who are also trying, but are not perfect.


What we call failure, might not be failure in God's eyes.

In the classic devotional book My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers writes, “God called Jesus Christ to what seemed unmitigated disaster.”

His point is that, with our human understanding, the life of Jesus was full of rejection. People wanted to kill Him, and his life ended with the death penalty . . . what we might describe as failure.

But from God's viewpoint it was an exact success. His obedient life fulfilled His Father's perfect plan for the world. He did the absolute right thing in everything he said and did.

There are many times in life when we know the “right” thing to do, but we also know that a certain decision could cause personal pain. What do we do in those intense times? Do we make the right call knowing that is the direction we (the company or church) need to go, even though we will go through a time of “paying” for our decision?

Frequently, success or failure is just a matter of perspective.

We often analyze our results in the company we serve, the church we pastor, or the family we are a part of with standards that do not consider the whole picture. There are many factors involved in whether a project (or a person) is going to be what we call “a success.”


Make the commitment not to blame others for your wrong decisions.

Norman Vincent Peale said, “Never say anything to hurt anyone. Moreover . . . refrain from double talk, from shrewd and canny remarks that are designed to advance our interests at someone's disadvantage. We are to turn our back upon evil and in every way possible, do good, help people and bring blessings into their lives.” 2

Do all you can to ensure that others understand that you own the problem, not that you pretend to own it while blaming another.

A multitude of employees, parishioners, spouses, and children have been wounded by people who have “scapegoated” their guilt and wrong decisions.

Failure has been a personal struggle for mankind since the beginning. We must understand that we are not perfect. We must own our wrong decisions and behavior, and not blame others for our choices, and we must learn to go frequently to our Creator and receive forgiveness for our sinful acts as we strive to live a balanced life.

Think about this:

“Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord;
O Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.
If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness;
Therefore you are feared.”

Psalm 130:1-4

1 Archibald D. Hart, Habits of the Mind, Word Publishing, 1996, Dallas, TX. P. 56.

2 Quote by Norman Vincent Peale.

Always know that I am . . .

Your Friend and Servant in Christ,

Wayde Goodall, D.Min
Dean, College of Ministry
Northwest University

The College of Ministry at NU is here to serve you. Let us know if we can be of any assistance to you in your leadership.

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