Do You Struggle with Failure?

Do You Struggle with Failure?

In last week’s presidential debate, I was struck by how unprepared the candidates were for the first question. (By the way, on a non-partisan note, I am sure the Democratic candidates would have been just as unprepared!)  They were asked to identify their biggest weakness and what they were doing to address it. By and large they avoided the question or simply took their answer in another direction. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised at their responses because how often do our political leaders acknowledge their failures?

Politicians aren’t alone in struggling with weakness and failure. In fact, most people find it difficult to accept their failures.  I find it rather ironic how much I struggle with failure given how often I fail. You would think that I would have grown accustomed to the whole experience.  Throughout the course of a day, I am often aware that I dropped the ball.  It might be a sermon that just didn’t come together.  It might be a pastoral call in which I realized afterward that I completely missed what was really going on. It might have been an interaction with a friend in which I was too distracted to notice their need. It might have been forgetting to do something for my wife that I absolutely promised to do. (Unfortunately, this last example is a frequent occurrence.)

Why is it such a struggle to accept our failures? Somewhere along the way we forgot that being a human being means that weakness and failure are part of the job description.  After all, God didn’t make us out of titanium, but fragile dust! We also forgot that trying to love God, navigate the complexities of life, and love others isn’t easy. We are always going to fail a lot when we are trying to do something demanding. (Just try to hit a golf ball in the middle of the fairway.) We also forget something else:  It is precisely in these weaknesses and failures that we discover that we need God and other people. In fact, the Christian journey begins when we acknowledge that we have failed and need help. We don’t receive the waters of baptism as a reward for virtuous behavior, but as a gift for acknowledging our need for God’s love and mercy.

Isn’t that interesting? It turns out that our weaknesses and failures, which we often try to deny at all cost, bring us to the one thing we most desperately need—God.