The greatest lesson I have learned (so far) in ministry is you cannot fear failure. Failure is the one constant in successful ministry. Mistakes are something that you can be sure about every day. The trick is being able to realize that you fail and admit it.
All have fallen short of the grace of God. No one is righteous. A sure sign of spiritual humility and maturity is to recognize that. The real problems arise when you cannot acknowledge or admit any fault.
A few weeks ago, I asked one of the bishop’s candidates in our diocese to talk about when he failed, what he learned, and what he did. Amazingly enough, this priest has never failed! Every “challenge” led eventually to a great triumph. That is incredible! That is bull!
Every challenge does not lead to a great triumph. Every mistake does not turn out in the end to be a secret success. Sometimes you just screw up. There, I said it. You mess up.
Sure, you learn something from all your experiences, but one of the most important things you learn from failure is not to do that again. Perm your hair once, and you learn never to do it again. Wear Kelly green, you learn that you look like a leprechaun. Decide not to visit a sick parishioner in the hospital the day she calls, and she dies before you see her, you learn not to make that mistake again.
Failure is a constant in life. Failures are embarrassing. We fail over and over again, but it does not mean that we are failures. We are failures when we will not recognize our mistakes and take responsibility for them. We are failures when we cannot recognize that we need to repent and ask for forgiveness constantly. Failure allows for redemption, for the saving help of God.
Sometimes we learn a wonderful lesson that enriches our lives from our mistakes. Perhaps that failure led to greater success later, but sometimes we are lucky if we survive with only a few bruises. We do not exist to avoid mistakes at all costs. We exist. We make mistakes. We move forward.
You cannot fear failure. You must accept it as a law of existence, like breathing. The only way you can keep from failing is to do nothing. We know that doing nothing does nothing for us, nor for the Kingdom of God.
So go out there and fail! Fail for the Kingdom of God! Screw it up! Then get back up and try again!