kneeling on dead leaves

We’re Only Human After All: Growing Through Failure

We take our humanity to work everyday. One day, we might fail to meet a deadline or misunderstand a client. Another day, failure might bring unrecoverable loss, the closing of a department, losing your largest account, or even filing for bankruptcy.

As failure looks us straight in the eye, we have a choice to make about how we respond. In these moments of hardship we can choose denial, blame, resentment, unforgiveness… Or we can chose to bravely take responsibility for our decisions and the impact on those around us. We can allow God to deepen our character through the roughest of circumstances.

Character Growth Spurts

No one wakes up in the morning and says, “I hope I fail today” – rather we hope not to! Yet failure, whether big or small, is part of our human existence. Indeed, it is through times of failure that our characters get a growth spurt. Hopefully, we get enough of these growth spurts early in life before the stakes get too high!

If our identity is in our work, rather than Christ, success will go to our heads, and failure will go to our hearts. – Tim Keller

God is passionate about our sanctification. He uses work spaces to cultivate people to be more like Himself. The workplace can be a place of character development if we allow our hearts to receive the instruction. Failure, more than just about anything else, can grow hardy, rock-solid character and deeper trust in God – if we allow it to. 

Learning the Hard Way

I know a BAM company team who took some shortcuts while working on a project for a client. The decision for these shortcuts came about due to faulty reasoning: that the client would be more upset knowing about the initial failure than they would with the shortcut solution that was made.

The team kept the first failure under wraps and delivered the project to the client with smiling faces and a prayer of blessing in the name of Jesus (as they did for each client). They learned a valuable lesson when the client confronted them about the less than perfect product.

God uses work spaces to cultivate people to be more like Himself.

In this case, the team learned a lesson the hard way – they hid their early project failure, lost credibility and damaged their witness. If they had owned their mistake with their client from the beginning it would have a been a fabulous, though humbling, way to display Kingdom culture to their client.

Fortunately, from there this team took the road of character growth. They adopted a posture of confession and humility with their client and resolved never again to try and hide failure in favour of shortcuts. They decided to use this experience as an opportunity to display their dependence on God’s grace in their lives and in their company.

What Do I Need to Learn from This?

If we are to be life-long learners and pursuers of character growth, the question we will need to ask in the wake of failure is “What do I need to learn from this?” This is taking personal ownership on the narrow road of character growth.

On the other hand, if failure is followed by resentment, blame, denial or beating ourselves up, character is stunted and failure will shape us in unhealthy ways. As Tim Keller said, “If our identity is in our work, rather than Christ, success will go to our heads, and failure will go to our hearts.”

Humility and honesty are extremely powerful for growing trusted relationships with others.

If our successes and failures are not defined within our relationship with Christ, then we can become either proud or feel like a failure. Neither extreme is the character that God wants to work in us. Rather, God desires that we take an honest look at ourselves, whilst dwelling in the forgiveness and dependence we have on Christ.

Harnessing Failures

Working in BAM spaces, there will be many opportunities to harness failure for the character growth spurts that God wants for us.

In business it can be easy to feel the pressure to succeed and so we hide our mistakes from others. However, we experience a beautiful thing in the Kingdom of God where low is high and high is low, and perfection is not the measure of success. A broken and contrite heart is what the Lord loves to see. Likewise, and somewhat counter-intuitively, humility and honesty are extremely powerful for growing trusted relationships with others.

If we are destined to fail regularly to one degree or another we may as well learn all we can from it, and grow all we can from it. Rather than fearing failure, embrace it is an opportunity to receive God’s grace and allow him to use it as a way to mature you to become more like Christ.

By Amy S

Amy is a regular guest contributor for The BAM Review.