“Success is going from failure to failure without a loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill
If I’m bad at something, I usually do a pretty good job of avoiding it at all costs. I don’t want to show others my weaknesses and allow them to know I’m actually human. I’m scared to fail and even more scared to be humiliated.
For most of my life, ‘failure’ has been a bad word to be avoided at all costs. In sports, in school, and in life, all I told myself was, “Do not be a failure.” Sure, I’ve heard how great it is to learn from mistakes and failings, but even then I can’t tell you the last time I saw an unhappy customer give the waiter a high-five for getting the order wrong. I’ve also never received a, “Hey, nice chatting with you” after I butcher an interview.
This realization started seeping into my faith life and how I viewed my relationship with God. It became almost like a game I had to win or a test I had to pass. However, after reflecting on the Stations of the Cross this past Lent, I began to see the importance of failure.
At first, I was critical of the fact that Jesus didn’t throw the cross above His head and sprint up to Calvary to prove He is the Son of God. Instead, He showed us that He was actually human by falling down three times; failing three times. He wasn’t even strong enough to carry the cross by Himself the whole way, someone had to help Him.
Through His weakness He showed us His greatest strength.
This was something I learned very concretely in my time at Christ in the City. Whether it was in ministry on the streets or within the community, there was no hiding. I had to let others see me fail, and as hard as it was, allow them to help me carry my cross.
St. Bernard of Clairvaux sums up this lesson pretty well by saying, “A saint is not someone who never sins, but one who sins less and less frequently and gets up more and more quickly.”
Following this example of Jesus, I will continue to fail along the way, and that’s okay, as long as I get up and continue on my journey. Allowing the people around me to see my shortcomings and help me carry my crosses is not always an easy task, but an important one. I’m still not always eager to throw myself out there and be humiliated, and I definitely do not strive for failure, but I know that it is necessary. I have learned that failing doesn’t make me less worthy, it makes me more human.
Nick was a missionary with Christ in the City in Philadelphia, summer 2016 and is currently a FOCUS missionary at Drexel University. He only drinks coffee, beer, and Gatorade, and loves Nebraska.