Running from Failure

Photo credit: Stuart Miles @

Photo credit: Stuart Miles @

A couple of days ago I came across a photo that reminded me of a very good memory.  It was a photo of my wife and I celebrating our fifteenth wedding anniversary in St. Augustine, Florida.  Here’s the photo.

Anniversary dinner_2014

As I looked at the photo I remembered what an amazing week we had together, and thought about how blessed I am to have such an wonderful wife.  The years that I have spent with her have been the best of my life.

And then from somewhere in the back of my mind came a memory that was not so great.  I remembered that just a few days after we returned from that trip I experienced one of the lowest points of my ministry career.

The weekend after our anniversary was a drill weekend.  That’s the one weekend each month that the National Guard unit that I am assigned to meets for training.  The big event for this drill was a physical fitness test, and I did not do well.  In fact I failed an event; the run.

In case you’re not familiar with the military let me tell you that this is a big deal.  At the worst it could have been the end of my career and at best it would mean the loss of credibility as a leader.  Instead, though, it became an opportunity for me to overcome my issues with running and also learn some valuable lessons about recovering from failure.  Here are some thoughts on getting back up after a fall.

Failure doesn’t have to define you, but it can refine you – Failing doesn’t make you a failure.  Learn from your failure and let what you learn make you stronger as you move forward.

You have to let go of the past (at least on some level) in order to move forward again – Paul wrote that he let go of what was behind in order to strain toward what was ahead of him.  You can’t run for the finish line looking over your shoulder.  Let it go.

Forgive yourself – You blew it.  Beating yourself up won’t change that.  Seek forgiveness of others and then forgive yourself.  I think I said this already, but… Let it go.  Then you can recover.

Accountability will keep you on track – My failure was largely because I was not training as I should have.  Due to this my recovery involved reporting my workouts weekly.  The accountability gave me motivation and helped me to hang in there through the rough days.

Sharing your failure and recovery can help someone else with theirs – Everyone fails, but not everyone fully recovers.  Your story could make the difference for someone.  Don’t be afraid to share it.  I have shared my failure with others many times this year and have seen how powerful a story of recovery can be.

We all fall.  What makes the difference in the end is how we respond to our fall.  It’s not a total failure unless you stay down.  So, get up, dust yourself off, and start running again.

**Note – In case you’re wondering, I took this year’s pt test yesterday and passed with flying colors.

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