Fear of Failure -- Seven Times Down; Eight Times Up
Why do we have a fear of failure? Failure is an integral part of life. It is our trials and sufferings that cause maturity, not our years or our successes, though these latter things bring confidence. The Bible discusses failure:
Fear of Failure – Don’t be Discouraged
“Don’t be discouraged by failure. It can be a positive experience. Failure is, in a sense, the highway to success, inasmuch as every discovery of what is false leads us to seek earnestly after what is true, and every fresh experience points out some form of error which we shall afterwards carefully avoid” (John Keats).
Failure is temporary and event-specific, but it is also recurring. Sir Winston Churchill said, “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” Whenever failure happens to us, we must keep our hopes high, our focus clear, and persist in our goals. We know that “testing … develops perseverance.” Perseverance—persistence—is a muscle only worked through failure. If we never fail, we never learn to persist.
“Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race” (Calvin Coolidge).
And the spirit of perseverance, the strengthening of this vital element of our character, leads to maturity. Helen Keller said, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”
Fear of Failure – Consider Trials as Character Builders
The opposite of “fear of failure” is considering our trials and failures “pure joy.” Not because it’s fun to fail, or something to be desired or pursued, but rather “being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). If God is working in us, then the things the world sees as failures are simply God’s tools to improve our character and make us more usable by Him.
We must never forget that our purpose in life is to serve God and bring others to Him. God’s goal is to fill heaven—either with us or in spite of us. His definition of success is based upon how many come to Him and accept His free gift of salvation, not by how much money we make or how few times it takes us to pass a given test.
“And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). (See also Matthew 6:25-34). When we understand that our failures bring us closer to God, then we begin to “consider it pure joy” when we fail.
“I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstance” (Martha Washington).
Fear of Failure – Ultimate Victory
Conquering our fear of failure does not suggest that we should seek to fail, or consider ourselves somehow better than others because of our failures. “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). Or, as Henry David Thoreau said, “Men are born to succeed, not fail.” This is how God created us: to succeed in the things we attempt. Success is our goal and purpose, and it should be unflinchingly pursued. But we are to consider our failures and struggles only “light and momentary troubles” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat” (Theodore Roosevelt).