Do we learn best from our failures or our successes?
I learn a lot from my failures. I should, because I rehearse them over and over. I learn what an incredible screw up I am. I throw some gasoline upon my ever smoldering sense of shame. I paralyze myself from moving forward and being the person I was created to be.
From my successes, I learn what motivates me and fulfills me. I learn about my competencies and how I make a contribution to something much bigger than myself.
Obsessing over my failures pulls me down, down, down into self loathing and paralysis. Thinking about my successes, instructively guides me to a place of belonging, contribution, and personal renewal.
Most of us know so little of grace, peace, and freedom. We know so little of the way of Christ. We focus on our sins and self-reformation.
If someone were to visit from another planet and listen to Christian radio, read Christian books, and live in the subcultural bubble, he would conclude that Christians are neurotic, self-obsessed, self-reforming people with little evidence of grace, peace, and freedom. Maybe that’s why is it so hard for us to extend grace to others, because we have not received it for ourselves.
What if we were free? Totally forgiven? No skeletons in the closet? Not worried about the last time we screwed up? Or that time many years ago that still haunts us? Or the times we will screw up and sin in the future? Or that thing that haunts our memory? Or that thing that we just don’t seem to be able to let go of?
I think of Jesus’ response to the women caught as she was having sex with a man that she shouldn’t have been having sex with. Scooped up from the bedroom and thrown into the middle of a mob of self-righteous men, she cowered, quivering, ready for the first rock to hit her in the side of the head, wondering how long it would take her to die, overwhelmed with the weight of a life poorly lived.
Enter Jesus, so drunk with grace that he didn’t even make sense to anyone, but he was deadly serious. His focus was the accusers’ sins, not the obvious sinner’s. He dispensed guilt to the accusers and grace to the sinner. His words, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” To the adulterer, “Where are you accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No Lord”, she said.
“Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”
Let’s leave the land of self-loathing which dishonors Christ and explore the frontier of freedom and grace in the way of Jesus. Here is the good thing, the only good thing about failure and guilt… it can lead us to the one who can do something about it.
Originally posted May 11, 2010.