Failure has many benefits. Once I have failed I no longer need to worry about failing (been there done that). I no longer need to worry about my pride getting hurt – I've been there. I don’t need to keep up the pretense of success – I blew that record. And, I can identify with 99% of the world who has also experienced failure at one time or another.
Our world celebrates success and denigrates failure (unless you are a Hollywood celebrity and fail spectacularly in which case you are now a smashing success in some twist of logic). But the truth is that the most valuable lessons we learn are through failure, not success and our transparency about our failures and pain is perhaps far more important than people learning of our successes. In failure the best lessons are learned, the best faith is forged and the best transformation takes place. So, why would we hide our failures rather than share what God has done in us through them?
Our willingness to share our whole story where appropriate becomes a powerful encouragement to others who are often struggling with the same issues or believe that because they have “failed” God cannot use them. The fact is that many things we view as failures are not really failures at all but are so only in our own minds. Older leaders would do younger leaders a great favor if they would share their own stories more transparently. Often young leaders view their elders as having sailed through life with a minimum of pain and failure. Usually just the opposite is true.
My perspective on hard times is very different today than it was when I was a young leader. I understand success and failure differently, have the perspective of time to see how God used pain for my benefit, and have seen His faithfulness in what looked like impossible situations. Not only did I not know all of those things as a young leader going through hard times but the advice I received then was not very helpful: God will work it all out! God did, but not in the way well intentioned people meant their advice. One of the realities is that some things don’t get worked out this side of heaven – no matter how hard one prays or how hard one tries.
God does not always fix broken situations. But He is always faithful in the process when we choose to press into Him in those broken situations. Faith is not believing that God intervenes in all situations but that He is faithful to us in the middle of brokenness. I wish I had that understanding as a young leader. I willing share my experiences today to encourage the next generation of leaders who are walking through their own broken places.
Success is not living without pain or tough times. Nor is it necessarily seeing spectacular ministry results – often it will not from our point of view. Success is faithfully living at the intersection of God’s gifting and His calling on our lives wherever that should be. Deep influence is not dependent on achieving success or acclaim by our peer’s standards but by cultivating the hidden practices we have been studying which mold a strong, deep, core of spiritual strength and resolve that influence all that we do and everything that we are.
All of us have paid our share of “dumb tax” – things that we would not do again and lessons learned the hard way. Our willingness to share our dumb tax with others can save them the pain of learning it themselves. I often ask leaders that question for my own benefit and encourage leaders to regularly share dumb tax with one another.
I am always amazed at the response from young and old leaders alike when I speak on pain, suffering and brokenness from a Biblical and personal perspective. I have had more than my share of these times including debilitating physical illness. People thank me over and over for sharing transparently. They are hungry for a perspective on their own situations and struggles and are encouraged that they are not alone.
We underestimate the place of sharing our experiences candidly along with God’s grace in the process. Each of us who is faithful is simply one more in the line of the heroes named in Hebrews 11 who lived by faith even when the chips were down. There is power in stories of brokenness transformed by grace!