Motivational speaker Robert T. Kiyosaki once said:
“Winners are not afraid of losing. But losers are. Failure is part of the process of success. People who avoid failure also avoid success.”
Heck – Forbes has rounded up a whole bunch of quotes about failure and the rewards that flow from it. Failure it seems is a great teacher. And yet, the nation seems increasingly to avoid failure with a passion. When people tear up a city, say Baltimore, it is not the fault of the rioters, but the city police. Not saying there is no wrongdoing in the BPD, but I am saying property damage is property damage, and unless someone is actually, at the moment, holding a gun to your head you are responsible for the property damage you do. When Barack Obama wants to figure out modern politics, it’s FoxNEWS fault, not the fault of the most powerful politician in the nation. And when a student fails a course, twice, it’s the university’s fault.
It is as if we are trying to recast reality. It’s not that we are unwilling to learn from our mistakes; we are just going to remake the world so that there are no mistakes.
Decades ago, when I was starting my business, which meant mostly I was sitting around waiting for the phone to ring, I applied for food stamps. It was, far and away, the most humiliating moment in my life. I did not make it through the process. I left the building disgusted with myself. It was from my perspective, a failure. I was failing to make enough money to feed myself (Thank God! I was still single at the time.) Sure there were all sorts of exigent circumstances I could cite, but in the final analysis my job was to find a way around or through those circumstances, and I was not getting that job done. Reality is reality and the reality was I was failing.
Owning that failure was a big part of getting my business really going. If nothing else the humiliation of being in that building made cold calling to get my business moving look a lot better. But, of course, it went deeper than that. Owning our failures makes us better. Denying our failures dooms us to repeat them. Einstein famously said “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” When students sue a university after failing a course twice, sanity has to be called into question.
I fear for our national sanity. We seem not to want to face the reality of our own failures. We elected Barack Obama a second time! Not only did he not learn from his mistakes of his first term, WE did not learn from them.
This too marks a place where we need faith in our nation. The heart of Christianity is coming to terms with our sin (failure!), confessing it (owning our failure), and being healed of it (success) When you strip the Christian gospel of its theological over- and under-tones, what you are left with is a narrative of building success from failure. I do not think it coincidence that as Christianity leaves the public square; this sort of unreal denial of failure seems to be growing.
There is no political solution to this problem. Christianity has to once again step to the fore. Otherwise we will fail to learn from our mistakes.