On Failure

Failure-PosterWhat does ‘failure’ look like?

A missed deadline? The end of a relationship? Financial worries? Something else?

I failed. ‘Fact’. Clear-cut and controlled.  Cause and effect. I did X and the outcome was Y.

But facts are slippery little beasties:  circumstance and decision; a million motives and intentions, all of ’em mixed. Plus, I get confused between feelings and facts.  I feel rubbish, so I am rubbish. I did rubbish, so I must be rubbish. Right?

And when you fail, what does it do to you?

Sigh philosophically and move on? Learn from your mistakes? Give up trying?

I’ve been reading an interview with one of Britain’s most successful comedians: Lee Evans.  In October 2010 he sold 200,000 tickets for his tour on just one day.  The guy’s a success.  But this drive has come from his experience of failure. And failure still drives him today.  He comments:

“I was bullied everywhere I went by the kids, by the teachers…at one school a teacher made me stand up.  He then told everyone to look at me and said ‘You are all looking at an idiot.’  Everyone laughed.  I’d get punched, hit, kicked, shouted at.  And I believed it.  I was a pleb, an idiot, a fool.  That’s who I was…”

Before turning to comedy, Evans trained as a boxer. “What I liked most was being punched; right in the face.  I felt I was getting what I deserved.” He was a better comic than boxer and in 1993 won the Perrier award. But instead of bringing him security, the success triggered a nervous breakdown.  ‘I went a bit mad because I was so worried that I didn’t deserve it.  I thought I wasn’t good enough or grateful enough or talented enough’.

Today he says this: ‘I think my success comes from the fact I’m an outsider – I always have been…People always underestimate me.  They look at my face, hear my accent and make a judgement….

The most painful place is best place for me: it always has been.   I think pain becomes your friend and for me it forces me to push on to the next thing, the better thing, to work out why something hasn’t worked. ..I can’t explain it properly, but I think it’s sort  of a good thing.  For me, anyway, it’s good.’

Read the full interview here.

There can be a real freedom when you realise that being an outsider is ok.  According to 1 Corinthians 1, God only chooses failures:

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.  (1 Corinthians 1:26-30)

Here are people who know they’re not wise, influential or noble in the eyes of the world.  But instead of pretending they’re better or punishing themselves for being worse, they look to Jesus and see a God who is for failures. A God who is for outsiders.  A God who chooses the weak things to shame the strong.  With our eyes on this God we can say, in the words of Mike Reeves, “I am nothing – but Jesus is my everything.”



3 thoughts on “On Failure

  1. My brilliant friend Becca writes a blog (well, it’s sort of on hold at the moment – she’s in South Africa for 3 months!) about failure – astoryoffailure.wordpress.com – really worth a read, and not just ‘cos she’s my friend :)

  2. I think in this world everything is about being better, stronger, richer, most beautiful….
    It s so hard not to believe all these lies. I can see on myself exactly doing this, if I fail something, I am the failure. But you are right. We have the privilege of having God who made us just who we are and that’s also how we are meant to be.

    So hard to always remember, but it is so unimportant what others or even I myself think about me, knowing the truth. And in this world we will have trouble but we will overcome it.

    Thanks for this reminder Emma! I so needed this today.

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