Adulting: When You Feel Like a Failure

Failure reminds us we're human.

I hate failure. I don’t care what all the business and leadership gurus say about the secret to failing well or how to fail forward or that failure is the secret to success. Let’s have an honest talk about this. Failure sucks. Nobody likes to lose. Nobody sits in the middle of the shambles of their life and dreams about the article or book they will write one day about how they rose from the ashes of this moment like a phoenix or how they like to write things that are full of cliché.

Failure is what it feels like when no amount of counseling or forgiveness can save a marriage. When every attempt at good parenting still produces a kid who stumbles down a path that seems to lead to nothing but more bad decisions. When you sink your life savings into a business idea that never found its wings to fly in the ways you dreamed of. When you fail out of school. When you’re fired. When you get laid off. When you break up, even though everyone thought you were the perfect couple. When you can’t afford to keep the house, the car, the apartment. When you make a mistake so colossal that the debris of your bad decision wounds everyone around you.

I don’t handle failure well. I am a recovering perfectionist. I am a classic oldest kid, trained to take care of everything and everyone. I am a church kid, raised to say and accept the good, convenient, Sunday school answers. I am Southern born and bred, trained to smile and be polite, even in the face of foolishness. The combination of these things makes me a prime candidate for holding my breath and holding it all together.

I was a good student, an overachiever. I liked school, and school liked me. Even though I haven’t been in school in years, I still look at my life as if each season is a semester that I must pass. I plan excessively. I try to control my environment. I don’t trust easily.

Failure isn’t something that happens to “those people” or something we can avoid by being good. It is not a grade we get to skip. Life is not a class where each choice, decision, or mistake will hand us a pass or fail, an A for perfection or an E for effort. It is not something our privilege, our money, or our pride can protect us from.

Like heartbreak, a bad hair day, or the flu, failure is coming for us all.

Failure doesn’t want to be our assassin. It wants to teach us the hard things. The aftermath of when we fail is life’s best X-ray. It tells us where we are broken, wounded, diseased. It tells us where we’ve been ignoring our hurt, our wants, our needs. It shows us who we are, who we’ve been, who we can be. Failure reminds us there is just as much strength in a beginning as there is in finding the ways to a new path when we’ve reached an unexpected ending.

Failure reminds us we’re human; we cry, hurt, and bleed. Failure humbles us. It reminds us even our best-laid plans and organized attempts at controlling life’s outcomes don’t control much of anything. It is failure that teaches us the dangers of pride and the grace of surrender.

Jesus knows we are going to fail.

He knows He will ask us to follow Him and we will choose ourselves. He knows He will ask us to pray with Him in Gethsemane and we will fall asleep. He knows He will invite us to join Him at the table and we will say we love Him and then betray Him. He knows we won’t always get it right.

God sent a perfect Son to take on all the failings of the entire world. He knew Jesus would get it right.

He knew Jesus could take all of these failed human beings and make it so we could be called righteous. There is no rock bottom, no personal disaster, no amount of utter failure where Jesus doesn’t walk with us.

Jesus invites the messed-up to dinner, to sit at His feet, to follow Him, to know Him, to be close to Him, to be loved by Him, to be forgiven, to grow, to be changed, to become more and more like Him. Until we realize just because we’ve failed doesn’t mean Jesus calls us Failure. Until we realize Jesus loves us with the kind of love that refuses to give up.

Excerpted with permission from How to Fix a Broken Record by Amena Brown, copyright Amena Brown Owen.

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Your Turn

Has failure come for you? If so, then you are not alone. None of us sets out to fail and yet we cannot escape it. Does it feel like failure has named, claimed, and maimed you? If so, you are welcome at the table with Jesus. His love is yours no matter what. Come join the conversation! We want to hear from you about how failure didn’t cross you off Jesus’ list! ~ Devotionals Daily

How to Fix a Broken Record

How to Fix a Broken Record
Amena Brown
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Amena Brown

Amena Brown is an author, spoken word poet, speaker, and event host. The author of five spoken word albums and two non-fiction books, Amena performs and speaks at events from coffeehouses to arenas with a mix of poetry, humor, and storytelling. She and her husband, DJ Opdiggy, reside in Atlanta, GA.

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