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  • Writer's pictureLauren Mitchell

How Do You React to Failure?

Caleb has been learning sight words, and we are all having fun quizzing him. I love this age so much! I got to teach Kindergarten in what seems like a past life at this point, and I loved getting to watch children discover reading. Even though Caleb is doing great, he is struggling with any words he misses. It’s become a pattern in his life. Caleb becomes so frustrated when he can’t do something, often even the first time he tries. He has also reached the age where he is struggling not to argue with us. I’ve realized that the two are linked. He is struggling with arguing because he is struggling with failure. When you try to tell him something there is always a rebuttal. I have been treating the symptoms but not getting to the heart of the matter. It’s his pride. He can’t deal with failure.

I’m a little too familiar with his state of mind, anyone else? When I really look, I can trace the root of a lot of my frustration to my pride. It’s not that I can’t say I’m sorry, or that I hate to be wrong; I just hate to fail. I hate it when I can’t do something right, especially when I fail to help someone. I look at almost every situation and see how I could have done it better. That’s pride.

I think a lot of us adults struggle with this same mentality. We try, and we become frustrated when we don’t get it right the first time. We give ourselves no grace at all. God does. He isn’t happier with our finished product than He is with our progress. He isn’t confused at all about what we can and can’t do, and it doesn’t affect His love for us at all. Really let that sink in because I think there are a lot of us that function in a state of feeling like a disappointment.

I want to better grasp that trying again isn’t failure, it’s forward progress, and that because of Jesus my efforts please God. The Bible clearly tells us that all of our accomplishments are nothing more than filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). God is not concerned with the accomplishment; He’s concerned with my heart. Teaching all three of my children to ride a bike, I wasn’t more proud of them when they mastered it than I was when they fell and tried again. If anything I loved it when they asked for help, got up and tried again. Learning to ride a bike is about a trust relationship. I would tell my children over and over, “I won’t let go”. As they believed that, it brought us closer to each other’s hearts. The failed attempts make the success seem that much sweeter and more exciting, and they linked our hearts. I am God’s beloved child and that’s exactly how he sees my failures. It’s an opportunity for me to believe Him that He will not let me go. It brings our hearts close.

I want to start letting myself off the hook when I fail. I’m the only person putting myself there. Don’t mistake me, I still need to confess my failure when it involves sin because it restores my relationship to God, and in that confession I am going to ask God to remind me that I am already forgiven by Him, so I need to let myself live every day in that beautifully forgiven space.

God, please set me free of the expectations of my own heart that are steeped in pride. Gently show me where I hinder myself. “Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love” (Psalm 143:8), and let it set the tone for my day. When I fail, let my hope in your faithfulness be what keeps me trying again. Keep me in the reality that your love is the same for me yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Let each attempt bring our hearts closer. In Jesus name, Amen.

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