“What Have You Learned From Your Failures?”



Note: I just ran across this column/blog I wrote in 2012. I’d almost forgotten.  Aargh!

“What have you learned from your successes and failures?”

That was the question the interviewer put to billionaire Donald Trump a few months ago during Trump’s brief (and, I personally hope, never to be revived) flirtation with presidential candidacy.

His answer: “I don’t see myself as having failures . . .”

I was so surprised by the answer that I may not have heard if he later tried to pull that bit of nonsense out of the ditch. Could any sane person fall into a failure more foolish or fatal than to claim to have no failures?

Two kinds of people draw breath in this world: those who are seriously weak and flawed and know it, and those who are seriously weak and flawed and don’t know it. We’re far better off being, and spending time with, the former. The latter are uncommonly tiresome, obnoxious, dangerous—and well-avoided.

Yes, we’re far better off belonging to the first group and being honest about it. But I suspect the only way that priceless knowledge can be bought is with some very costly pain. Until we’ve been hit “up the side of the head” pretty hard with one of the major bricks life sooner or later throws at us all, I doubt we can offer much real and condescension-less comfort to others who are also ordinary humans—which means at times concussed, bruised, bleeding.

Until we’ve shot ourselves in the foot and have been forced to learn that, though God’s children all dance, they also all walk with a limp, I doubt we have much valuable to offer those who want to join the dance.

We may talk a good game about grace, about how we’re all sinners in the same boat completely dependent upon God’s mercy. But until we’ve swallowed enough sea water to seem to be headed under for the last time, I doubt we can really open our hands to reach up for God’s hand or to reach out a hand to genuinely help others.

Until we’ve been aghast to find ourselves down in the depths, we deep down think in our heart of hearts, even if not aloud, that we or our group are a cut above the rest. God’s favorites. The blue birds in the class. At least a little bit gifted and talented morally. We blindly think that all we really need is a little more time to try harder, get things all figured out, and sharpen up our act.

Until we’ve been jolted into sanity by hitting bottom, we center on our problem with sins rather than our problem with Sin, worry more about outward acts than inward putrescence, focus on specks of sawdust in other folks’ eyes rather than planks in our own. We waste time gazing through the wrong end of the telescope. Nothing clears up the picture more quickly than hitting the wall with some obvious failure and living through the pain that follows. Then grace means something because it is real and precious. It has always been our only hope, but now we know it.

And then if someone asks us how we’ve dealt with failure, the answer will be worth hearing.


You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!


Copyright 2012 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

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