My Favorite Mistakes (Lessons I’ve Learned From Failing Slowly)

Crossing out Lies and writing Truth on a blackboard.I once read the mantra for a company called IDEO. It was simply, “Fail Quickly.”

I wish I had read that several decades ago. I have the tendency to fail slowly. With a thousand pardons to Sheryl Crow, here are a few of my favorite mistakes.

1. Searching for a soulmate—That term is so sexy…and so deceiving. In one pivotal job interview, my prospective boss and a well-respected Pastor told me, “I’ve been looking for a soulmate a long time, and I believe I’ve finally found one.” He was referring to me. I bought the line and subsequently went to work for him. What I did not realize was that both of us were destined for deep disappointment. We all have a soulmate and it is NOT a Pastor, it is not our spouse, it is not another woman, it is not another man, it is not our best friend. The soul we are so desperately looking for is our own. Until we look within to find our soulmate, disappointment will forever haunt us.

2. Confusing God and the church as one—When your vocation is ministry or service of some type; when you grow up in a minister’s home; when you grow up immersed in church—chances are you will make this mistake. God is made up of God. The church is made up of people. Hopefully, God is infallible. Definitely, people are fallible. At best, the church can only point to God. At worst, the church becomes a substitute for God. The church can be an idol. God can only be God.

3. Expecting my children to share my ideals and values—I made the huge mistake of believing Focus on the Family. They teach if you follow certain steps—i.e., date your children, give them a purity ring, celebrate their rites of passage, raise them in church, put them in a “Christian” school—you can expect your children to adopt your values and ideals. Wrong. Dead wrong. Children grow up very fast in western civilization these days. They become adult-like before we blink our eyes, and start making their own decisions and forming their own values and ideals. Regardless of what we’ve done to “brainwash” them. One of my favorite mistakes was believing I should strictly hold my children to my values and ideals. Sure, teach them what you believe is right and wrong, but then realize they must make their own mistakes and don’t be crushed when it happens. Simply love them with an unconditional love. My mistakes help me grow. They will do the same for your children. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

4. Living out of other people’s response to me—I am not who you think I am. Nor am I who you need me to be. I’m not even who I need myself to be. A benefit of getting away from the herd for a while—an extended time of solitude—is that it provides perspective. I must live out of who I really am. And who I really am is hard to find in the middle of this fray called life. An extended time of solitude, whether chosen or forced, is scary. Very scary. We must have a time to wait and observe. A time of silence. Deafening silence. Only then, when you stop the parade of new voices and ideas, will you see the underlying and ever-recurring patterns. Most of us spend our entire lives living out of other people’s response to us instead of living in the “who I really am” that is already good in God’s eyes.

5. Caring for others at the expense of myself—Sociologists call my generation the “sandwich” generation. I have cared for my parents and my children’s well-being. I will probably serve along with my siblings as my parents caregiver, and I cared for my children financially ten years longer than I was cared for. I paid for my own college education and I paid most of my children’s education. I’ve spent my life caring for others: as a minister, a mentor, a friend, a parent, a husband, a son, a brother, a sister, and a leader. My mistake has not been in caring; it has been caring for others at the expense of my own soul. I have not taken time to care for myself, and therefore, I’ve failed all the people I’ve cared for in doing the most important job assigned me as a caregiver. That of caring for myself.

This post was becoming so long, I decided to divide it and post five more “favorite mistakes” tomorrow.

Question: What is one of your favorite mistakes?

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9 Responses to “My Favorite Mistakes (Lessons I’ve Learned From Failing Slowly)”

  1. Thanks for these words of wisdom! They mean more to me than you will know!

  2. Good stuff.

    hopefully I can learn from your mistakes too
    Vince´s last blog post ..Social Media Reset

  3. I really resonate with number 4.
    Something I am learning currently.

    A favorite mistake I have made is thinking that if I get in with the right people, the right crowd I will be accepted, happy and successful. This simply is not true.
    Kyle Reed´s last blog post ..3 Must Have iPhone Productivity Apps

    • Thanks, Kyle, for joining the conversation. I love your words: “…thinking that if I get in with the right people, the right crowd I will be accepted, happy and successful. This simply is not true.” Wise words, Kyle, wise words.

  4. Very true and tough lessons to learn for most of us, especially in many church environments. I think it’s extremely challenging in our society to carve out time of quiet and solitude, but I have experienced both “involuntary” and “voluntary” sequestered times, and they have always yielded nuggets of wisdom and revelation about myself and God’s great love and design for me. It is tough at first to let go of the noise and chaos and settle into a quiet place, but it bears wonderful fruit. Thank you for your insights, my friend.

  5. It’s the journey, not the destination, that counts. Yours is a good journey.

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