The Benefit of Failure


Written by Linda Padgett 

As women, we look for perfection. We work for perfection. We want perfect relationships, which need perfect spouses. 

We spend tons of money working toward perfection in beauty and health through gym memberships, skincare products, figure-flattering wardrobes and shoes, shoes, and more shoes. We lose sleep over trying to make our children’s lives perfect, and we spend hours perfecting our very homes.  

For many of us, the search for perfection doesn’t stop at those shallow or vain pursuits. It continues into our spiritual lives. As Christians, we want to be perfect... or at least appear that way. 

Our attempts toward perfection in our spiritual lives are often displayed in several different ways; the way we dress, the way we spend our time,  the way we talk, and the way we act. We know that the Lord calls us to  

be holy, sanctified... perfect; however, I wonder if our pursuit of perfection is too heavily focused on these external indicators. 

In some way, it’s easier to work on the areas in our lives that people can see. There is great motivation because we want to be respected and regarded as holy. No rock music, No smoking, No drinking, No, No,  No. 

But in truth, real sanctity, purity, and holiness are found internally. Perfection should be sought in those dark shadowy parts of the heart that we neglect, that we bury.  

It is in those hidden parts of the heart where purity needs to be found.  That is where perfection will be attained. Those areas that no one can see, that we disguise with spiritual ornamentation, are the areas where the real work needs to be done. But how do we work on those areas that are not easily seen? 

Through failure.  

Sometimes, by failing at those external measuring guides, a cleansing of the hidden areas in the heart can occur. It is in those hidden areas where we conceal pride, hatred, self-loathing, lust, and dishonesty. These nasty qualities of our personality are far more destructive than the clothes we wear or the music to which we listen. Those nasty little traits need to be eradicated from our hearts, and failure has a beautiful, yet painful, way of doing that. 

Failure, especially public failure, penetrates the core of our being and leaves a mark there. Often, that painful mark sheds light on that darkened corner and allows us to truly see how messy we are. Also,  failure usually brings humility, and humility is a necessary attribute in our journey towards perfection. 

I have failed so horribly as a parent that it made it to the evening news  (that’s another story for another time). My darkened corner that contained a good amount of pride was swept clean that day. When we can no longer pretend that we have it all together, we can finally get real with ourselves and face the deep issues that are keeping us back from holiness.  

Maybe it’s our child’s mistakes that reveal our shortcomings as parents. Maybe it’s an outburst of anger that reveals the hatred rooted deep inside. Or maybe it’s the realization that gossip is really just deep-seated envy. Failure is the gift of light that shows us our internal struggles.

For certain, we must strive to be well presented on the outside; however,  the focus should be on internal perfection, weeding out those things in our hearts that are dark and ugly. When those internal imperfections are changed, the external imperfections change with them. 

So, let us not focus too much on what we THINK is perfection on the outside, the way we dress, the things we do, how our children behave because those things will eventually be transformed. We must allow our failures to do the work they are intended to do. Those failures should be allowed to deal with pride, hatred, lust, and envy. Those are the things that are deep inside our hearts and those are the things that will  REALLY cause our spiritual death. 

The next time you feel like a failure, embrace that humility, search your heart, and allow the healing to begin. Your perfection will happen from the inside out, not the other way around.

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