The Gift of Failure

FailureIt’s funny how success is seen as the route to happiness.  In my experience, it’s the opposite.  Striving for something you can’t achieve –

being (the most) beautiful

(the most) entertaining

(the most) intelligent

the fittest the richest the thinnest the most popular

– but always The Most –

doesn’t make you happy;

it makes you miserable – and grumpy, to boot.

That’s the problem with success – it’s usually a competition.  “Good” doesn’t cut it –  you need to be Best. Which for 99.9999 per cent of us, is just not possible. Whatever Nike tells us and however hard we try.

Life is full of challenges.  And we have to fail at some of these. But with failure comes freedom.  It teaches us really important things about life; and about ourselves.

Things like this…

1. I am not God. But

2. there is a God and He comes for failures like me. Which is great because

3.when I have the freedom to fail, I have the guts to aim bigger. Instead of being driven by fear and self-protection, I can start to actually live. Instead of hiding behind my performance, or despairing about my failures, I can afford to think about others and try things from their point of view.  This frees me to take risks.  Risks like

4.  showing other people the (scary) grace that God has shown me.  Grace that reaches out, not just to my friends, but the people who hurt me and let me down. Failures…

just like me.

Funnily enough, the more you practice failing, the better equipped you are to deal with it.

And the more that “failure”, starts to look like success.


But God said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

2 Cor 12:9

8 thoughts on “The Gift of Failure

  1. I’ve spent most of the last fifteen years feeling like a failure for not having ‘recovered’ well enough. Even though I am one of the few recoverees I know to have gone on to graduate, get a PhD, hold down a full-time job… People have always made me feel like a failure for whatever residual drop of ED or depression remained. Recently, I have started to think that it’s my concept of recovery that is wrong, not me. Maybe recovery is a myth. Maybe this is as good as it’s ever going to get. I’m fed up with being condemmed for failing to achieve something that was never a possibility in the first place. Maybe I just am this way. Time for people to stop judging me for being less ‘free’ than they think they are.

  2. And the other thing, even if you do achieve being the best at something, it is always temporary (even if temporary is several years) and it is often only in one sphere of life. The emptiness inside will remain. You only need to read certain biographies to see how those who seem to have the whole world in fact lose it all. And others, losing everything the world has, find truth and freedom. Hang on, didn’t Jesus say that? ‘What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world yet forfeits his soul?’

  3. Yes, biographies are a very powerful example of what Jesus says – like people parables.

  4. PWP, recovery really isn’t a myth – though you’re right in saying that we can have faulty concepts of it – for me at least, it’s been much slower and more painful than I expected/wanted. What I love about Jesus is that He doesn’t weigh us down with expectations; He sees us and loves us as we are, but then leads us gently forwards, in His time and in His strength. He doesn’t just zap us better; He’s there for the long haul and to change not just our behaviours (which is often what others see), but what underpins them – our hearts.

  5. Hi Emma,
    Trying to decide whether to ‘fail’ i.e. withdraw from a current post grad course in order to give time/space to getting even more better (!) i.e. achieve real change in eating habits, or whether I can manage both. So hard to know whether failing will bring another low, or be the break I need.
    Decisions can be hard when you don’t know a. what you want; b. what is for the best c. at times with an E.D. who the real you is.
    All suggestions welcome!
    Emma x

  6. Wish I had the answers Emma! Sometimes having another focus is good in terms of recovery and helps you keep sane. But it depends on your personality too – for me, learning to fail (and giving up on studies, for a period at least) was a very important part of getting better. It wasn’t that studying in itself was bad, but my perfectionism (which was at its worst when the ED was strongest), meant that working became a huge source of stress (and arena to prove myself). Because the recovery process was also stressful I needed to use all my energy for it – and it was so liberating to give up trying to hit my own ridiculous targets.

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