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You Aren't Your Mistakes

You Aren't Your Mistakes

You aren’t your bankruptcy or your divorce. You aren’t your broken friendships, your addictions, or your good ideas that didn’t quite pan out. You aren’t the five pounds you gained over the weekend or the gym membership you bought in January as a New Year’s resolution but still haven’t used. In fact, maybe it’s time to look yourself in the mirror right now, and say:

I’m not _____________________ [fill in the blank with your mistake].

I’m ________________ [insert your name here]!

Because that’s what’s true. To truly master the art of the epic fail, you have to practice reminding yourself that you aren’t your mistakes. You have to remind yourself who you truly are. Someone who is created fearfully and wonderfully in the image of a ridiculously awesome God who loves you. Completely unique. Completely wonderful.

And that’s great news. Because you’re going to fail! You’re going to mess up! And while that doesn’t mean you won’t have to deal with some consequences from those failures (sometimes even devastating ones), it does mean you can learn from them, grow, and come out on the other end better than where you were when you started. You can let them refine you!

Our Failures Can Refine Us

Since failures are a given if you’re going to live a life worth living at all, you should get used to learning from them! Failure is the best coach, mentor, and personal trainer your time can buy! Conversely, to put it in the words of the current fifth-richest man in the world as I write this, Bill Gates, “Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.”

In his book Creativity, Inc., Ed Catmull emphasizes at length that the heart of Pixar’s culture and success is their insistence on failing big, beautifully, fast, and often. In almost every meeting, they’re asking how they failed that week and what they learned from their failure. Rather than shying away from failure, they embrace it and grow from it because, in Ed’s words, “If you aren’t experiencing failure, then you are making a far worse mistake: You are being driven by the desire to avoid it.”

I definitely have the failing big, fast, and often thing down like a pro, though I’m not quite sure I’ve hit the beautiful part yet. That is, unless you consider the beautiful things that can come out of getting it wrong.

For every epic fail, you have at least one way you can be refined in it. Probably a lot more. In each of my failures, my goal is still to get way more out of it than I lost from it. Whether it’s learning to be a little kinder with your words or growing in your gratitude. Or maybe it’s learning that, yes, the speed limits do apply to you. Maybe it’s learning to slow down or be more patient with yourself and with others. Or perhaps it’s just learning that you actually matter. You have value and worth that is greater than you could have ever imagined. I’ve had to learn all of these, and much more, the hard way by employing the art of the epic fail.

I wish I could say I’m good to go now! But the truth is, I probably still have an actual billion epic fails left in my lifetime. And while that may seem a bit disheartening at first consideration, it’s actually encouraging. Because if I can truly master this art of failing epically, it means growing even more. More refinement. And the Stephen you’ll meet a year from today will be much better than the Stephen who is sitting here writing these words.

We are all on our own journey, and despite the cancel culture in which we live, people are people everywhere you go. Fallible. Hypocritical. Hypercritical. Holier-than-thou about our morality (religious, political, or otherwise), and utterly in need of grace.

Maybe, just maybe, our failures will make us humble enough to have authentic—not contrived or calculated—mercy, empathy, and compassion for one another and for ourselves. Maybe when we fall down and get back up enough times, we will start to see a pattern that no matter how bad it gets, it really is gonna be okay.

I recently became obsessed with the TV show Ted Lasso. Not because I’m obsessed with soccer—or as the rest of the world calls it, football. We just have to be different, so we call it soccer and have a completely different sport called football. Much like using pounds or Fahrenheit or miles. Why do we have to make everything so dang confusing? But, alas, Americans are rebels who love to reinvent the wheel, I suppose.

I think the runaway success of Ted Lasso may be attributed to his seemingly boundless capacity for hope during a season when I think we’d all agree we need more hope. It can come across as naive or even foolish at times, but his contagious brand of optimism just has a way of turning the tide even on the darkest of days and worst of mess-ups. It softens the hardest, most cynical heart. It encourages the most downtrodden, who are thinking to themselves, Dear God, what have I done? Am I done?

You failed? No problem. Try again. You got it all wrong again? Cool deal. Just another step to getting it right. “You know what the happiest animal is? The goldfish. You know why? It’s got a ten-second memory.”

Feels a bit oversimplistic when we try to overthink it. But compared to the alternative of endlessly wallowing in our failures and letting them paralyze us from being able to move forward, I’m gonna choose to be a goldfish, get the heck back up, and keep kicking.

Our failures teach us resilience. They help us reframe our perspective without rewriting the truth. Not just moving on from how we got it wrong, but moving forward with the hard-won wisdom we earned from our mess-up.

No matter how badly we may have missed the mark, the sun is still gonna rise and paint the sky with a million glorious hues of grace—as though God were screaming out, It’s gonna be okay. I’ve got this. I haven’t forgotten you. I’m still faithful. Just trust me!

Adapted with permission from The Art of Getting It Wrong: Finding Good in the Misadventures of Life by Stephen Miller.

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Your Turn

It’s time to stop obsessing on your failures. You are fearfully and wonderfully made… and mistakes are the rule, not the exception. Understand that you are God’s beloved and He doesn’t see your mistakes when He looks at you! ~ Devotionals Daily