failure week.

I’ve got a few more weeks before I take my annual break-all-the-rules-of-successful-blogging summer sabbatical. I’m a bit behind this year but will be here for 2 more weeks and then gone until september 1st. This week, I wanted to finish up one blog project I have been trying to get to for almost a year now–Failure Week. Grief Week was a few years ago (5 days on the 5 stages of grief) and I’ve been wanting to spend some extra time focusing on an area that I think deserves some extra love, too–failing.

It’s not everyone’s favorite subject when there are so many other far-more-fun things to focus on, but failure is a human experience, something almost all of us are wrestling with, facing, dealing with in our own ways.

We often have few opportunities to talk about it out loud.

Failure is usually deeply connected to shame. Like all-things-shame, we usually do whatever we can to manage it on our own, push it down, carry on, try-to-figure-it-out-on-our-own-so-that-others-don’t-know-how-devastated-we-really-feel-inside. I think all humans, regardless of faith or gender or socioeconomic backgrounds, struggle with failure; however, I also believe that those of us who come from a more conservative faith tradition sometimes struggle with it more intensely. Our inability to “succeed” or “win” or “conquer” or “do-it-right” is sometimes connected to our faith (or more appropriately, our lack thereof). Often, those of us with performance issues related to God feel an extra measure of shame and disappointment in ourselves that we somehow can’t “get it right” no matter how hard we try. That we must be doing something “wrong.” That somehow we’re just not good enough, faithful enough, strong enough, disciplined enough, _______ enough in the eyes of God because if we were, we wouldn’t struggle.

So many of us are living with fear of failure each and every day, struggling to put on our game face, try harder, to pretty much do whatever it takes to not let reality suck us under.

We are dealing with failure in all kinds of different areas of our lives–finances, marriages (or not being able to get in one), kids (or not having them), ministry, jobs, health, dreams, looks, faith, sobriety, relationships, ________ (you fill in the blank).

When I’m honest, I am personally far too motivated by fear of failure. I feel its tug all of the time. In good performance-perfectionist-rally-at-all-costs fashion I often do all kinds of crazy things to avoid it. I try too hard, I work too much, I pretend more than I should, I carry more than I can. I unconsciously and overtly do whatever I can to avoid failure.

Yet, no matter how hard I try to avoid failing, the older I get the more I keep learning that failure is truly a gift that I need to keep embracing.

It is transforming.

It is healing.

It is freeing.

It is part of being human.

It is a gateway to so many beautiful things.

If I will let it be.

No matter how hard I have tried to resist failure, the truth is over the years, there are so many areas of my life that I have experienced failure–failed parenting, failed faith, failed leadership, failed diets, failed projects, failed friendships, failed dreams.

When I look back on each of these areas, I realize how in the moment I hated, despised, resisted everything about these failures. Oh, the time I have spent agonizing over the “I could have, I should have, If only I would haves.” How often I beat myself up in my head, replaying so many moments that I could have done differently, the wrong turns, the mistakes, the I-wish-I-could-take-that-backs, the regrets, the Monday morning quarterback replays.

A few years ago I read a great little book by J.R. Briggs called Fail. It was centered on failed ministry and the stigma that is associated with that in the world of church. I could relate in so many ways, especially after my free-fall out of mega-church ministry and all that I had dreamed of over 10 years ago. The part I appreciated most about it was the focus on transformation that happens through perceived failure.

That failure is part of being alive.

That failure somehow means we tried instead of sat on the sidelines.

That failure means that somehow we had courage in the first place to try, to engage, to risk, to connect, to do-something-that-required-our-heart-and-our-souls.

It makes me think of the Theodore Roosevelt quote Brene Brown often builds on related to the arena. He says this:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Over the next 5 days we’re going to talk about failure here–failed parenting, failed faith, failed relationships–plus a formation friday on failure. I hope somehow it will be comforting to someone, that we’ll all feel a little less alone in our failures.

For me, just talking about it helps.

See you here tomorrow.

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life, online, and outside. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a hub for healing community, social action, and creative collaboration in North Denver, co-directs #communityheals, a non-profit organization dedicated to making spaces for transformation accessible for all, and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.