“I fail, but I’m not a failure.” I came across this saying recently, and I have to admit that I didn’t take those words very well. When it comes to our failures, that is a wonderful attitude to have but it’s one I rarely adopt.
When I fail, which is more often then I care to admit, I have a tendency to become disheartened and downcast. At times, I’ve internalized my mistakes and allowed them to define how I view myself. When I fail in leadership, I might be inclined to tell myself, “I’m a lousy leader.” Or if one of my sermons falls flat I might think, “I’m a poor preacher.” I’ve even gone so far as to take the shortcomings of others on to myself. One day when my youngest came home having failed a spelling test, I found myself thinking, “I’ve failed as a father. I can’t even do a good job at helping my kids be good students!”
I know I shouldn’t have such a poor attitude, but this has been something I’ve struggled with, and I’m guessing that I’m not alone. If you struggle as I do, we need to remember that the real problem lies not in the mistakes and failures but instead in the attitude we choose to adopt at the moment the failure occurs. When we refuse to simply say, “Well, I sure missed the mark on that one!” and move on, but instead choose to adopt an “I’m a failure” type of attitude, then our failures will continue to effect us much longer than necessary.
What we need to be constantly reminding ourselves is that today’s mistakes and mess-ups don’t have to mean we’re bound for failure tomorrow. Let me share with you a quick story I recently came across to help illustrate my point.
On baseball’s opening day in 1954, the Milwaukee Braves and Cincinnati Reds played each other, and a rookie who played for each team make his major-league debut during that game. The rookie who played for the Reds hit four doubles and helped his team win with a score of 9-8. The rookie for the Braves went 0 for 5. The Reds player was Jim Greengrass, a name you probably haven’t heard. The other guy, who didn’t get a hit, might be more familiar to you. His name was Hank Aaron.
As long as I don’t internalize today’s shortcomings or let them define my attitude, I can quickly get back on the right track that leads to tomorrow’s successes. I’m not saying that I shouldn’t take a moment to analyze where I went wrong or what I could have done better, but then I need to get up, dust myself off, and say, “I failed, but that doesn’t make me a failure.”
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:12–14, NIV)