Failure is a hated, dreaded word. It suggests a dead end, the end of the story and a bad one at that. It’s very painful to admit to failure because our world applauds success. Failure's the opposite of that and admitting it sounds like a ball and chain being clicked shut around your leg. The ball is shame and you feel sure the line between it and you just disintegrated. How can you extricate yourself then? You can’t see where your shame stops and the You before you felt such shame starts.
Recently, there’s a new dialog about failure. People point to Inventors who failed multiple times before the “ahah!” Businessmen who went bankrupt over and over before creating a solid corporation. We begrudgingly admit it’s necessary, and then go back to avoiding it.
Generally, we all want to do well and continue to become better all our lives. I do and I wonder why it can't be a tidy progression like stair steps that take me up and up and up. I don’t look forward to face-down moments, but I’m learning failure is more than necessary. It’s the dirt success grows out of.
Doesn’t that sound hopeful? It also sounds romantic and a little naïve, but I read a story that gave me pause in the book Rising Strong by Brene Brown. A man failed his coworkers and felt like a screw-up. He's wise to shame’s game (thanks to Brene's other books) and called a friend to help him get out from under it. The friend asked how he’d treat a colleague if the situation were reversed and he realized he’d be understanding. Hmm. This helped him do what he did next.
He apologized to his team. He told them he made a mistake and hoped he could regain their trust. The spirit of their workplace changed from that day forward. “The levels of trust, respect, and pride within the team skyrocketed after that experience…We worked together. We fell together. We climbed up together. That changes people.” For the better.
Why did that end well? Failure’s reputation is bad because it can kick-start a downward spiral. First, the guy decided against setting up camp in Shameville and did what he had to do to leave. Second, he chose to be honest. When his self-protective instincts probably screamed for distance, he took a step closer to his coworkers and talked to them.
And look what happened. Good grew out of it.
That’s redemption. Taking something bad and dead and making it alive and good. Sign me up. I’ve got some dead ends right now. From where I stand, I've been feeling pretty stuck.
Breathe some life into my life, Jesus.
Let’s see where these stories can go.