Failing Forward

"The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand." ~ Psalm 37:23-24 (NIV)

Unfortunately, this week I feel that I am supposed to write about failure. This is an area that I am certainly qualified to talk about, and would be glad to share anyone else’s stories but my own. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been afraid of failing. I know that I’m not alone in this feeling. For most, we want to be successful in our careers, business decisions, our marriages, in parenting - and the list goes on and on.

Of all the failures, some small and some big, that I could share with you, one in particular stands out and serves as a turning point in the way I view failure.

I had started for every basketball team I’d ever been on - until high school. I showed up for tryouts at Maize High School in Wichita, Kansas, out of shape – assuming I could just coast through and see my name on the team’s list at the end of the week. Nope. I didn't make the cut.

I’m pretty sure there were tears involved. Granted, there’s no crying in baseball. But to my knowledge, no such rules applied to basketball. I came home devastated. It’s one thing to fail and you’re the only one to know. It’s another thing when everyone you know expects you to succeed at something, and the only person you can really blame for the failure is the person in the mirror.

SIDE NOTE: My (former) friend, who made the team, came up to me and said, “Hey man, Michael Jordan got cut from his high school team too…” This counseling method was not helpful… and I wanted to roundhouse-kick him in the face at that point.

A few days later, there was a book by John Maxwell, titled, “Failing Forward” sitting on my bed. My dad had set it there while I was in class. One of the quotes that inspired me the most was this:

"Why do achievers overcome problems while thousands are overwhelmed by theirs? They refused to hold on to the common excuses for failure. They turned their stumbling blocks into stepping stones. They realized that they couldn’t determine every circumstance in life, but they could determine their choice of attitude towards every circumstance."

Even through the embarrassment of failing, I realized that I had a chance to choose my attitude towards this circumstance. I took responsibility for my failure, and I was determined to be able to look back on this and see it as a positive situation for my life - a turning point. I had to choose to not let this failure define me. I worked my tail-end off for the next year and earned my starting position back the next season. Looking back on that time, I see how that has totally shaped my attitude towards failure.

I have failed since then too. I truly believe and expect that failure will continue to be part of my life, and here’s why: When you live a life totally devoted to God, He is going to ask you to do things that are risky, out of your comfort-zone, and often-times, beyond your fingertips. There will certainly be times when I fall short, but just as the Psalmist wrote, I have great confidence that God will carry me through. I rely heavily on God’s grace to step out and live a life that brings glory and honor to Him. I believe that there are circumstances in our lives that God allows us to endure so that we will more fully place our trust in Him.

It has been through this lens that I have learned how to deal with failure – to not live life afraid that I might fail. This is an attitude that does not come easy, but I believe it is one that is crucial for a person to truly live life to its fullest.My encouragement to you is to embrace your failures and turn them into opportunities of growth. There is a great Zig Ziglar quote that says, "Remember that failure is an event, not a person." May this be true for you as well.


  • What are some notable failures in your life?
  • Up until this point in your life, have they been what define you?
  • What does your attitude need to be to engage life without fear of potential failure?

“The greatest mistake we make is living in constant fear that we will make one.” ~ John C. Maxwell