“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
We’ve all heard these famous words a time or two. We might have even voiced them aloud in the midst of a bad injury or terrible accident. But how often have we acted on such words firsthand?
The truth is, the majority of us are afraid of failure. So afraid in fact, that we often put ourselves in situations where we are guaranteed our own safety. We don’t want to risk the chance of ‘being killed’, so-to-speak. Instead, we turn to comfort and security as a form of strength.
An individual may argue that this kind of thinking is perfectly logical, but I completely disagree. When confronted by a hard situation, the worst thing you could do is not do anything at all. It is true that not trying means not failing, but it is perhaps even more accurate to note that not trying also means not knowing. In this way, fear of failure attacks us at our core and robs us of any hope we had for potential self-growth.
As I tell myself in the mirror everyday, failure is not the worst thing that can happen to you. Sure it is not always the most ideal, but it can often lead to experiences and opportunities beyond our wildest dreams. This is where the idea of failing forward often comes into play. It is when you do your best to put yourself and your work out there, even when things get messy — even when you get turned down or rejected or your next big project falls through. It is about standing strong in the midst of these hardships so that you and your work might grow into something better and brighter than ever before.
The illustration that comes to mind when I think of failing forward is one of an artist chiseling away at a piece of stone. In order to become what the artist desires, the stone must first undergo a rigorous transformation. It will be bent, beaten, and broken all before it shines in its true glory, but once it does it will shine for everyone to see.
So it is with life. The Divine Artist knows that in order to reach full potential, one first has to encounter his or her share of shortcomings. Sometimes we are like the stone — tough and stubborn and not really willing to be tested. But the artist tests us anyway, and because we are in His hands, we can place our future in Him. Philippians 1:6 voices this thought with the following words. It says, “I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
You see, when God is on your side, there is really nothing to fear. He is the perfect source of both strength and security, and it is because of Him that we can pick ourselves up from the crux of failure and be able to start again. When you are at your lowest, He can bring you higher; and when you are at your weakest, He can make you stronger.
Elevation Worship put it nicely in their 2010 song “Give Me Faith”. In reference to Psalm 73:26, the lyrics call out, “I may be weak, but Your Spirit’s strong in me. My flesh may fail, but my God, you never will.” It is my hope that you will treasure these truths and hold onto them as tightly as I do. Though failures are an essential part of life, they are far, far from all that the Spirit hopes to accomplish in us (Romans 8:18).