There are many faces of failure. Some are our fault. Some are just an unfortunate life incident.
President George H.W. Bush was once at a state dinner in Tokyo. Many Japanese and American business leaders were there, seated around a table covered in white silk, and using gold utensils. Representatives from the world’s media were there with open microphones and cameras rolling. But President Bush was not feeling well. This was to be a shining moment of diplomatic success. He turned to his left and nodded at his smiling host, Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa of Japan. Suddenly he threw up in the Prime Minister’s lap and tumbled to the floor. When security got to President Bush he was groaning. He said “Roll me under the table until the dinner’s over.” The networks played the footage over and over around the world (Sometimes You Win Sometimes You Learn, John C. Maxwell, 163).
Have you ever been embarrassed by a failure? Maybe it’s even been a moral failure. Imagine being the man who loves his wife, yet struggles with pornography. He sneaks a peak at some inappropriate sites on his work computer. Shortly afterwards he is called in and fired for it. Embarrassment, pain and failure.
We live in a broken world. We make mistakes. We hurt people. We hurt ourselves. These moments have huge implications, often altering our lives forever.
I think of the mother who was a professor at Cincinnati Bible Seminary where I earned my degrees and met my beautiful wife. Years after we attended, that professor left her sleeping baby son in the car and the child died. How do you get over that? How do you recover from painful failure?
I think the answer is G.R.I.T., a fierce tenacity and perseverance. Let me break “grit” into pieces to understand how it works.
G. is for ‘grace’
Particularly if our stumble is a moral failure, we must reach for God’s grace (unmerited favor). John the apostle tells us “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and WILL FORGIVE us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Jesus paid the ultimate price on the cross so that we can be separated from our sins.
One of my favorite examples of failure and forgiveness is the incredible leader Moses. Towards the end of his career there was an incident where he disobeyed God because of his anger. God punished Moses by letting him see the promised land but not letting him lead the Jewish people there. That goal had been his focus for decades — devastating! But then in Matthew 17, in an incident we call the “Transfiguration,” Moses gets a field trip from heaven to see Jesus the Messiah in the promised land. That’s grace. Grace invokes God’s forgiveness and invites us to forgive ourselves.
R. is for ‘responsibility’
Dodging responsibility for our actions goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. When caught in his sin Adam blames Eve and even God. Eve then blames the serpent. Our culture is filled with victims; people whose failures are “someone else’s fault.” Author Rick Warren is correct when he says, “My biggest problem is me.” If you fail, own it. If you sin, confess it. If you hurt someone, apologize for what you did wrong. Take responsibility for your failure and move forward.
I. is for ‘investigate’
Why did your business fail? It could be COVID-19 or carrying high amounts of debt or hiring poorly. Take a hard look at failure.
Marriage a mess? Yes, your spouse contributed, but you can’t do anything about that. What is your contribution to the brokenness?
The recovery movement has embraced The Serenity Prayer which says: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
I once heard speaker John Maxwell say that “it’s not experience that is the great teacher, but evaluated experience that makes the difference.” Dig in. Ask trusted friends for input. Business author Ken Blanchard says, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” Investigate your failure so that you can fully learn the reasons for it and walk a different path in the future.
T. is for ‘trust and try again’
David, a man scripture describes as having “served God’s purpose in his generation” (Acts 13:36) was also an adulterer and murderer. He knew something about God’s grace enabling a man to start over after a failure. David said, “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand” (Psalms 40:1-2).
Trust in God’s grace and move forward again. Song writer Cory Asbury succinctly says, “Failure’s never final when the Father’s in the room.” Let that sink deeply into your broken places. Never give up.
Show true G.R.I.T. Your chapter 11 is not the end of your story. Your divorce is not your destruction. Your having been fired does not mean your career is finished. Trust in your loving Father, get up and try one more time.