"The church is always worried we might make a mistake. Mistakes are the guaranteed consequence of wild abandon. Mistakes are signs of growth. That is why the Old and New Testaments are full of people who made mistakes. The church should be one place in our culture where mistakes are not only expected but welcomed." (Dangerous Wonder by Michael Yaconelli, page 53)
The fear of making a mistake is perhaps one of the greatest fears that we experience. It causes us to refuse to step out of the boat when Jesus is calling us to walk on the water with him. It causes us to hold back and not do the things we desire to do. The fear of failure is crippling. It stifles creativity and causes us to settle for the same old same old rather than freeing us to step out into the adventure of exploration and discovery.
Everything around us feeds this fear and we're trained early to respond to it. Our first experience with it is when our parents fearfully warn us against certain activities because "you might hurt yourself." While a certain amount of caution is good, this sets us up for developing the fear of failure. If the process continues, we become bound to the safety of the earth when we could be experiencing the adventure of soaring with the eagles.
I've always been rather timid about doing new things. I'd much rather stay where it's safe. It's only been in the last few years that I've been willing to at times leave my place of safety and risk failure in order to experience the adventure that Daddy is calling me to participate in. It's usually with some fear and trepidation as well as a lot of thought that I become willing to step out into the new thing that he has prepared for me.
The root cause of the fear of failure is an unwillingness to give up control. We wonder, "Can this God really be trusted?" We're not really sure so we prefer to stay where it's safe rather than risk making a mistake since we're not sure God will take care of us when the going gets rough. Instead, we need to learn to welcome mistakes because they indicate we're growing. They indicate that we're in the process of learning and discovery. We all desire success but there can be no success without failure.
I wonder if we should even label anything as a failure. Failure and mistakes are a normal part of the journey to success. All men and women who we consider great have experienced failure. What made the difference is that they didn't give up when they failed. Instead, they learned from their mistakes and continued until they fulfilled the dream that was in their heart.
Peter was fearful and as a result denied Jesus three times yet he later went on to be a powerful witness and thousands received salvation because of his fearless preaching. Paul's preaching stirred up so much trouble that he had to be lowered in a basket through the city wall in order to escape a plot to assassinate him yet he later travelled throughout the known world boldly preaching the gospel of grace. Thomas Edison repeatedly met with failure in his attempt to invent the light bulb. He is credited with saying "I didn’t fail ten thousand times. I successfully eliminated, ten thousand times, materials and combinations which wouldn’t work." Each of these men continued past their failures and saw great success.
We need to learn to accept our humanness and not beat ourselves up because of failures. We will make mistakes. That's a given. Instead of giving up in defeat or wallowing in guilt and condemnation, if we'll continue to move forward trusting the Holy Spirit in us, we'll see Father move in our lives and circumstances in great and wonderful ways. Father is calling us to lives filled with adventure and discovery but the goal will only be reached if we're willing to give up all illusions of control and embrace failure as a necessary part of the journey.