Faith to Fail
Having faith does not mean that you will win every time. Believing does not guarantee success. Consider the standard championship sporting event. Two exceptional teams face each other. The players have trained hard, they have worked through a lot of opposition, they have prayed, and they really believe that they will win. Yet, only one team will.
Entrepreneurs exercise great faith when they start their next endeavor. However, statistically speaking, most of these startup businesses will fail. No matter the level of faith involved, some things just don’t work out.
People pray for healing, yet their loved ones may still pass on. People pray for successful marriages, yet the other spouse may be untrue and move on. People work hard in school and pursue good grades, yet they may still fail an exam.
While we often hear of mentors, coaches, or others asking if we have the faith to win, to succeed, to triumph, or to otherwise achieve our goal, we do not hear, as often, of asking if we have the faith to try, even if we don’t succeed.
I have a number of fears that run through me and that stop me from doing some things. For example, I do not have a great singing voice. I don’t hear all of the parts of music, and I don’t fully hear how the human voice harmonizes with musical instruments. This makes it so that when I sing alone, I am usually fairly off key.
I fully know this, and so I have an ongoing fear of singing in public. The fear is fairly intense, likely because something inside is trying to protect me from the humiliation I would feel if I tried singing and failed badly.
One day in church, though, I watched as a member of the congregation sang a song as a soloist. The person did not have a good voice, and I still remember the thoughts and judgment that raced through my mind and heart. “How can she believe she has a good voice?” I thought to myself. “How can she not know how bad she sounds?”
Later, I was reading a book in the Arbinger Institute’s “The Anatomy of Peace” collection. In it, they shared a story about a group of friends that each took a turn singing a song. Finally, all eyes turned to one friend who had not sang yet (that would be me if I had been there), and they, all in good humor, told the friend it was his turn.
The friend was far too embarrassed to try and sing in front of others, and so he declined. I could feel for him, as I would do the same thing. When he did, his friends pressed him harder to take a turn. He continued to decline, and eventually an awkward spirit filled the room, with the friends no longer jovial and happy.
The Arbinger Institute pointed out that to his friends, his refusal to try singing was a sign that he didn’t trust them, that he was afraid to try, but not do well, as he was afraid they would mock or belittle him. He didn’t join in the moment, even if he wasn’t a great singer, as he didn’t trust the others he was with. His friends, however, had trusted him when they sang, and so his refusal to sing felt like a betrayal to them.
My response to that story, naturally, was to disagree with the Arbinger Institute’s position. I felt for the friend that didn’t sing as I knew how it felt to be bad at singing. But, for some reason, this story, and the memory of the woman singing poorly in church, kept kicking around in my mind.
Thoughts such as “how do I develop the ability to understand when people won’t mock me for trying?”, or “is there ever a time when people won’t mock a poor attempt?”, or “is it wrong to want to get good at something before performing?” would go through my mind.
Eventually, I realized that I was missing the mark with my thinking. All of my thoughts and fears were geared around how to protect me. All of my logic was based in what was required to protect me from being mocked, from humiliation, from the judgment of others, etc. What if, though, faith was really about putting myself in a place where there was potential for harm? What if faith was really about growing through the unpleasant experiences of life?
There are many things I am learning from my poor singing voice. Just as I judged the woman who sang in church without a perfect singing voice, so too will others judge you for trying something. I certainly can’t promise that they won’t. Chances are high that someone will mock, tease, or say something humiliating if you try something new. Interestingly, while I first judged that woman for singing with a poor voice, I now highly respect her. I can see that she has far more faith in that area than I do, and now I find myself admiring those who try singing but still do it poorly.
However, the only way to get better at something or to change something is to push into the zone where pain can result. And, interestingly enough, pain often does result as we move into that zone. There is nothing about faith that stops the mocking, the judgment, the failures, or the pain as we try something new.
Faith, rather, is a belief that the pain is worth it. Faith is a belief that the journey to try and start a business is worth the failures along the way. Faith is a belief that the sacrifices involved with marriage and parenting are worth the potential joy and companionship that can result if things turn out, or that the journey still adds enough to who we are to make it worth the attempt even if it doesn’t work out.
When we have true faith, we don’t sit waiting for the perfect moment. We don’t take only the classes that we will do well in. We don’t wait until our voice is perfect to sing in front of others. Rather, we take chances, we make mistakes, we learn, we feel pain, we try again, and we, likely, will fail again and again.
The journey is worth it though. We will make mistakes, guaranteed. We will be judged, guaranteed. We will feel and experience pain and loss, guaranteed. Beyond all of that though, there is success, at some point. There is change, there is acceptance, there is companionship, there is fulfillment, and there is joy.
If we have true faith, we have the willingness to try and fail. We have the willingness to accept an invitation to sing, even if we can’t sing. We have the willingness to let go of the fear of failure and accept that the journey involves pain and discomfort.
The faith to fail is the faith to try. The faith to try is the faith to learn. The faith to learn is the faith to grow. The faith to grow is how we become who we have the potential to be, and that is what will change the world.
So, stop fearing failure, and start embracing the journey. You are not bad for not succeeding or winning at everything. You are just on the journey, and there is still so much ahead that will make all of it worth it in the end.
At Believe, we truly believe that each person has the potential to change the world, for good. No matter our past, our weaknesses, or our quality of singing voice, we each can grow and become something that contributes to the good in the world. As we work, try, fail, and build together, the world becomes better than it was before. As you have the potential to change the world, for good, we would love to have you join us. The world may never be the same.