By Jeff Denton,
Pastor at Waterbrook Bible Fellowship, Wylie.
Everyone has had moments of failure they’d like never to repeat. A common encouragement is “don’t dwell on it” or “just move on and forget about it.” But, what if there’s value in our mistakes? We may be missing out on the most valuable life lessons by not stopping to absorb the pain from the errors we’ve made.
Research tells us that many people respond to failures by trying to deflect the blame. There is a group of people who think self-improvement thoughts after failure. They might say, “I can do better if I adapt in this area next time.”
However, more people respond with inner thoughts intended to protect their self-image. More of us are prone to think, “That was too hard and I couldn’t have gotten that right.” Or we blame others with “I was never told I needed to know that for the test.” In other words, we’re protecting our ego by refusing to admit our responsibility.
A study at Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business found a majority of Americans just want to forget about their failure and not think about the emotional pain of not succeeding. However, according to study co-author and professor Selin Malkoc, “When faced with failure, it is better to focus on one’s emotions – when people concentrate on how bad they feel and how they don’t want to experience these feelings again, they are more likely to try harder the next time.”
Parents can get in the way of allowing this to develop in their children. The desire of most parents to protect their children can result in jumping in to rescue a child from natural consequences and discomfort. The parent who regularly makes trips to school with something their child forgot isn’t helping that child develop internal skills of remembering what they need. The lack of consequences has no value in pushing them towards growth in this area.
The same happens in a business setting if a boss or coworker regularly jumps in to save projects that would fail because of an employee who isn’t doing his/her work. While the short-term goal of making a sale or a customer happy seems the best route, if the goal is to create long-term employees who do their jobs and serve the company well, then the behind-the-scenes rescue short circuits that result.
New studies show students allowed to fail and deal with the consequences are more successful at college than those who didn’t have that experience. Likewise, employees who work for commission rate higher at customer satisfaction than employees who work for an hourly salary. Why? Because their lack of ability to connect a shopper with what they want to purchase directly impacts their salary. A couple low paychecks are great motivation to work harder at making those sales!
There is a biblical proverb that says disgrace comes along as the result of pride, but humility brings the gift of wisdom over time. (Proverbs 11:2) Someone who accepts failure as part of life and learns from the resulting discomfort is more likely to grow the skills to avoid that failure in the future. Whereas, the person who keeps making excuses when things go wrong will likely keep making those same mistakes.
The gift that comes along with this skill is learning that no failure is permanent. There may be pain in messing up; but that doesn’t mean you’re ruined forever. One of the greatest tools handed to the person allowed to experience the pain of their mistakes and grow from them is the ability to get up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.