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Failure is an option

From the desk of…

by Dave Hudson, Major –

Last week, while waiting for a flight at Washington National Airport, I saw a mother and father teaching their baby boy to walk. The father was kneeling about 10 feet from the bench where the mother was sitting. Mom would hold the boy in front of her while Dad would extend his arms toward the child and call his name. Off he would go, running on his toes, leaning forward and letting his momentum carry him into the outstretched hands of his father. Upon his success, both parents would clap and cheer. By their reaction, you would have thought he had won an Olympic gold medal or scored the winning touchdown for the national championship. After the cheering subsided, he would then turn around, face the other parent, and do it all over again. On the third attempt disaster; about half way to Dad, the boy fell. Tears welled up in his eyes and the bottom lip began to protrude. Just prior to the cry, dad stepped over to him, picked him up and placed him back on his feet. Then, stepping back, he held out his arms for the young boy to run toward. Cheers and applause were louder than ever upon his success, as if the failure never existed.

We all like to succeed; no one likes the feeling of failure. Failure brings out so many negative thoughts and feelings. We second-guess ourselves, we doubt our ability and we begin to think that we are a disappointment to everyone around us. Worst of all, failure often prevents us from trying anything new again. We are either paralyzed with fear of failure or the status quo becomes our comfort zone. We come to the conclusion that we will not fail if we do not try anything new or daring. Nothing ventured, nothing failed.

One of my favorite stories in the Gospels is found in Matthew 14, where Peter walks on the water out to Jesus. Talk about risk! Everything was wonderful until common sense entered his mind and Peter realized what he was doing. The waves began to rise past his ankles to his knees; he was sinking. I wonder what the other disciples were thinking and saying while Peter was sinking. How stupid; what a failure! Why in the world would anyone in his right mind get out of a perfectly good boat and try to walk on the water? Jesus, however, reached out his hand and caught him, then used the moment for a teaching opportunity about faith. I think Jesus was proud of Peter.

The other disciples were left in the boat watching. Not only did Peter get an experience with Jesus that none of the others had, he had quite a story to tell his grandchildren: “I walked on the water with Jesus.”

I think that failure does not bother Jesus at all. In fact, I think that he is proud of his people who fail when trying to do something new and bold in his name. Throughout my life I have made more mistakes than my share. I certainly regret some, especially the ones that were made for selfish reasons. However, some of God’s best teaching moments for me have been at the heels of failure. Some of my failures have brought glory to God; others provide great stories to tell (that improve with age).

Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City, was asked what he does when people working for him make mistakes or fail. He said, “I reward them. When something they try doesn’t work, I promote them because they were willing to try new things.”

I think Jesus would approve.


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