Archive for the ‘Self- Knowledge’ Category

The Fear of Failure

Many of us will not try to do certain projects or responsibilities for fear that we will fail. So, we tend to only do a project or take on a responsibility that we are pretty sure that we will succeed in doing. Many of these activities are ones that we are familiar with and know we can do reasonably well.

As a result, we often become limited in our willingness to learn new skills and new ways of doing things. We become like old and foolish kings who no longer know how to receive instruction (Eccl. 4:13). So, why are we so afraid to fail?

The sad truth is that many of have drunk the cool aid that tells us that our failure decreases us as a person. We often feel inadequate, unimportant and a loser in general when we fail in some specific effort. So, we stick with the familiar to avoid failure.

However, as Christians, we learn that our failure does not decrease how important we are to God. So what if people think we are a loser? God does not (1 Peter 2:9). His opinion is the only one that counts.

Sure failure hurts. It always does and always will. Failure to meet our expectations and the expectations of others will often have painful consequences.

Yet, those consequences do not need to include the belief that we are losers and not important. We are important! This will never change no matter how often we fail as far as God is concerned (Luke 12:7).

I have been testing living in this reality more in the last few years. This is the reality that I do not need to really fear failure. I do not need to shy away from attempting to pursue over-my-head goals for fear of failure. If God seems to be leading, that is enough reason to pursue them. God will not think less of me for trying and failing.

As a result, I have been willing to risk starting a writing ministry in the last couple of years despite having little experience or education for it. Many times I have felt like a loser doing this ministry. Many times I felt like I must be crazy for trying and feeling so bad at the results. Many times I have had to recall that I am not decreased as a person to God by my failures.

For some of us, we have taken decades to get the way we are. We have been drinking the cool aid for a long time that failure is something big to fear, something that can be devastating. So, we need to be patient with ourselves.

It will take time before we will become intelligent and bold risk-takers. It will take time for our deep beliefs and feelings to change. In the meantime, we still need to act on the truth that failure does not hurt us with God, even when it feels like it does.

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I have been trained to see myself as others see me, or how I think they see me. It is embarrassing to me to admit that in some areas I still tend to see myself as my mother did long ago regarding my looks. I felt unacceptable and diminished when she pointed out to me my appearance flaws.

So, when I think about it, it is not too surprising to me that I was disturbed the other night when I caught my image in a mirror that showed that I was nearly bald on top. My thinning hair on top nearly disappeared in the bright lights of the room. It was as if the top of my head was stamped with “shame, “unacceptable,” and rejected.” So, without thinking, I did what I usually do, which was to try to put the image out of my mind.

I chose to believe that my worth and acceptability depended on not being bald on the top of my head. I could not believe in that moment that being bald on top did not diminish me in God’s eyes. However, I then came to my senses.

Before I could put the image out of my mind, I decided to change the image to match the truth. Instead of “shame”, “unacceptable”, and “rejected” stamped on the top of my head, I now saw “approved,” “loved,” and “precious” stamped on the bald top of my head. I knew that God accepted me with or without hair. There was absolutely no flaw in me that would ever cause him to reject me. So, I decided to put off the old image and put on the new one.

So, the next morning when I noticed in the mirror that I had an absence of hair on top, I pictured “approved”, “loved”, and “precious” stamped all over it. Now, I am beginning to feel differently about my thinning hair. It is no longer a source of shame, but a trigger to praise God and his grace, and to feel good about myself. I am retraining myself to see myself as God sees me.

I encourage you to ask God to help you discern where you are seeing yourself less than the way God sees you. For example, you may not see yourself as very important because of your looks, your achievements, or what people think of you. Baloney! You are important! God says, “You are precious in My sight, you are honored, and I love you” (Isaiah 43:4). We need to put off the old ways of seeing ourselves, and with God’s help, see ourselves as God sees us.

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Most of us have a hard time living in the reality that because we are God’s children, He will always love us, never reject us, and always consider us precious. No matter how much we fail or get rejected by people, God does not think less of us. Most of us have been trained to believe that this reality is sheer nonsense.

For instance, my parents let me know at a very early age that they were not going to accept me for who I really was. Instead, they would make me into who I needed to be in order to be loved, accepted, and valued by them.  I learned to live for what they thought of me by pretending to be who they wanted me to be. This trained me to look to people to find love, worth, and acceptance, instead of God.

Today, I am learning to live in the reality that what other people think of me is really not that important. What is important is what God thinks of me. For example, I used to seek leadership positions to make other people think I was important. Today, I am growing in living in the truth that my importance will never increase beyond what I already have as God’s child, no matter how highly people think of me. Living in this reality is freeing me up to assume leadership positions to serve, and not to use them to gain the importance I already have from what God thinks of me.

This wonderful reality of what God thinks of me, has helped me recently to journey through a difficult set of circumstances. A couple of months ago, I was turned down for a leadership position in my church. I could have avoided this fate if I had pretended to think differently than I did. However, God did not want me to pretend to be who I was not, in order to be accepted by people. So, I presented myself as who I really was, and was rejected for the position.

In years gone by, I would have been more shaken by being rejected for the leadership position. However, this time, I endured the pain of what others thought of me, and lived in the reality of retaining my dignity by relying of what God thought of me.

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Did you know that you and I have many false beliefs and strategies for living that we do not even know we have? For example, we can be controlled by what certain people think of us, and reject the clear teaching of God about what he thinks of us, and not know this. We can be afraid of losing status with certain people, even though God has said that we will never lose status with him.

He says to us, “You are precious, you are honored, and I love you” (Isaiah 43:4). Yet, we can live as if the opinions of certain people trump God’s opinion of us, which it does not. Because this kind of false thinking and dependency often happens deep within our hearts, it is outside of our awareness and often goes unchallenged.

How can we deal with a problem that we do not even know we have? How can we “put off the old and put on the new” (Ephesians 4:22-24) if we do not even know what the old false thinking and dependencies are?

However, God warns us that we cannot really get to know ourselves without the help of the Holy Spirit. “The heart is more deceitful above all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)  He goes on to say that he alone really knows us and what makes us tick.

So, may we ask God to search our hearts and reveal to us any hurtful way (Psalm 139:23-24). This should help us to know ourselves better, and with God’s help, put off our old ways of living.

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