Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success.
C. S. Lewis
We live in a world that sees failure as a negative and something determining who you are as a person and our self-worth. Failure lurks everywhere and we strive as business professionals, parents, and teach our children to avoid it at all costs. We stunt their growth when we take over their lives, over-protect them, leap tall buildings adverting any struggle along their path so they never feel the pain or disappointment of failure all out of fear. Inevitably we set them up to fail in ways we never imagined and I have to ask is failure as bad as it seems?
Everyone wants their children on a winning team! I was the mom on the bleachers that hollered and yelled in support of our team and against the offensives of the other players! I get it! The desire to win, be successful, and not looked down upon is everyone’s story! It’s was mine too. I recently volunteered as a basketball coach for my youngest daughter’s age group through our area gym. It was my first time being on the bench as coach and not the bleachers as mom. Your perspective changes quite a bit as you see things through different eyes and listen with different ears. You hear the nasty comments made by the coaches and parents towards the children as well as the mean ones made in the court. You see the fear of disappointment and resentment in the eyes of the children playing not to mention the defeat unfold in new players before the game is even played.
Our season was filled with opposing teams out matched in height, age, and skills. I listened to my players fears of not being able to compete against the “giants” as we called them. I saw their gazes directed to the score board and saw their desire to give up. It broke my heart to pieces and I wanted to scream, “It’s unfair!” But was it?
I love the Bible story of David and Goliath and our season this year rests on this story. There are many times in life circumstances seem so big and goals look unattainable but we have a choice in how we handle them. We can faint and cower behind the sheer size of everything or we can rise up and fight. With one stone, David defeated the giant Goliath. He stood brave and willing to fight when no one else wanted to. He could have let negativity from others enter in and believe the defeat spoken over him but he refused. Instead he found his success in God and stood firmly upon who he was in him, aimed, and shot bringing defeat to the one who opposed God.
While David’s story ended with a seen victory, it’s the unseen that captivates me. He did not cower nor did he believe the negativity in the crowd. He simply stood before the giant and trusted God. He was already a winner in heart. We see defeat and failure and think it bad but it’s really the heart that determines whether you win or lose.
When we don’t allow our children to experience failure or loss in the fundamentals of life, we stunt their growth and constantly put them on the offensive. They aren’t able to grasp the concept of learning through failures but they completely understand the disappointment, comparison to others, negativity and body language displayed towards them if they don’t win. We give them a false reality of life and what it is when we constantly focus on winning and sadly they too learn to fear failure. Life is not and never will be fair. It is filled with many struggles, pitfalls, and snares, they must walk through learning and growing all along the way. If we speak and only see failure in them, we inadvertently tear them down before they can ever rise. Our children become scared of failing, not wanting to learn the defensive strategies of true success or gaining the heart knowledge that comes from a failing experience necessary for growth.
While I still like being on a winning team, my perspective has changed on what winning is. It is not the score or the wins of the season but the effort put forth, if there is continued growth in addition to the condition of their hearts. Anyone can play to appease parents or coaches but when personal growth is stunted and the willingness to learn and gain more skills gone, it becomes meaningless. While winning may equal to a seen victory on the surface, it’s in the unseen the experience is insurmountable. Failure gives them strength, courage, endurance as well as perseverance and conditions their hearts. It’s not the score, grade card, degree, social status or the professional label desired but the heart that truly determines a win.
The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.
Ralph Waldo Emerson