Addressing Our Failure to Fail

by - 7:19 AM

There are some truths that burn when you put them down on paper.

I don’t like those.

I like pithy truths. Droll truths. Truths that put on a dapper hat or a poofy skirt with a crinoline and a parasol. Those are the kind of truths you can take out, you can introduce them to your friends. You stroll around with them making sure everyone sees you with them. They make you look good. They make you look smart, educated and worthwhile.

These are not the truths I need to address today. And I am not thrilled.

What I need to talk about right now, is failure.

Not small failure, or cheap screw ups. I mean 100% pure uncut, kick you when you are down and make sure you stay that way, capital F, Failure.

I’m not good with failure. I’m not sure anyone really is. At least not without some serious work.

And our discomfort is understandable, it’s totally human to shrink at even the word Failure. It strikes at us, at our ego, at our image of the person we are. We build up this image in our mind and in the way we project ourselves to other people. We live in that image, constantly trying to make the world conform to our idea of ourselves. We call this image “I”.

This is what we mean when we say “I” did this, or “I” am this or “I” believe this.  Which is one of the reasons we can say we believe something and yet do something completely opposite. Because our “I” isn’t really us.

It’s just our image of us. The person we think we should be. And our “I” has it’s uses. Just as long as we remember it’s not really us.

The real us is the one who falls. Who fails. Who gets back up. The real us is the one that is broken, that is hurting, that is tattered and weary. That is us.

Your “I” is a goal you shoot for. But unless you remember that it is only a goal, and not the reality, you will never learn anything. If we abuse our self image, and try and project that it is the only image, the only reality, then we can’t live in the brokenness. If we can’t live in the brokenness, then we will never learn or grow, and certainly never heal.

I have met so many people, myself included, who insist on projecting a person to those around them. They think that this is holiness, that this is righteousness, that it is what it means to be Godly.
But I have slowly found myself drawn to another conclusion. Holiness is only found in those who live lives unshielded by their “I”. People who drop the masquerade, who let the act fall, and share their failings. This is what the sacrament of confession was made for. And yet we have made it another way to publicly self-flagellate and increase our “I”. We have so frequently abused this sacrament that we don’t even know how to access it anymore. Because of this we have no hope in our churches. We have no mercy. We speak of redemption and forgiveness but we do it from behind plastered smiles and pristine clothes. We speak of holiness, but what we mean is looking good and making money while we are doing it.

So what is the solution?


I think that one of the most important parts of the walk of any Christian is failing.

Terry Pratchett in his wise humor once spoke of humanity as “The place where the falling angel meets the rising ape.”

What a breath of honesty.

It is not in denying our failings that we become holy, and it is not in ignoring our successes. It is in holding them both openly and honestly, it is in being Divinely Human.

Our holiness is bound up inextricably with our humanity. We were not made to be gods, we were made to be human, to fail and fall, to rise and struggle. We do not need to lose our humanity to be sanctified, our humanity is how we are being sanctified.

So let us cast off our dedication to our “I”. Let us be bold women and men of God. Let us do it without trying to project a person who doesn’t even exist.

And let’s try our best to silence the part of us that hears this and says

“Sounds Great!…..but you first”

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