If you have read my testimony, and if not why not, you will know there are one or two things in my past which for a while I let define me, having once been a former gambler who ran up massive debts is not some thing you shake off and deal with over night. But thanks to the grace of God I have moved on from those times and rather than seeing them as something I should keep hidden like a dirty secret I see them as something which happened which God has not only used to grow me as a person but will use to help others who might be going through similar times. Yet this blog post isn’t about those things from are pasts, those things which we have dealt with and moved on from, but the other things which end up robbing us in the now, keeping us a prisoner of the fear of failing.
The best way to explain this is to give you an example from my own life. As a teenager growing up in an evangelical church we were encouraged to share our faith with people, yes we were called to evangelise. Now I never felt comfortable doing that, not that I didn’t believe it was something we were called to do as Christians but I simply never felt confident enough to talk to strangers, not just about being a Christian but basically about anything and as for talking to groups, well I would find any excuse not to. I will blame part of that on the effects of negative “what if” teaching by those who should have been empowering me but I also have to take responsibility for never putting myself out there. In truth I did put myself out there on three occasions; I tried to play guitar in church as part of the worship group, I performed a rap with two friends at a church concert and I also tried to lead a session of a youth group once, none of them went well and over time I have built up in my head how bad they were making them seem a million times worse than they really were.
The thing is that all my life I have tried to live life under the radar, always looking for some thing to do behind the scenes when called upon rather than putting myself out there because I have convinced myself that I am not capable, that I am sure to fail and embarass myself in the process. Okay some other people’s negative nelly comments haven’t helped but when ever a situation has arisen where I could have spoken up, and I don’t just mean sharing my faith with someone else, I have more often than not preferred to remain quiet.
Part of the trouble is that the fear of failing which holds us back is tied up in embarassment and what we think others opinions will be of us. Now in some ways we should be concerned about the opinions of others, we don’t really want people to think we are untrustworthy or someone who doesn’t keep their promises. But at the same time does it really matter if someone thinks you are not dressed as smart as someone else or thinks you stumble over your words a little? Those sorts of opinions are completely unimportant and I tell you what, when you learn to let go of seeking validation from other people you make a huge leap in becoming more than you think you are capable of being.
The thing is that if I look at who I am now I am nothing like that kid who once tried to lead a youth group session only to end up feeling highly embarassed and a failure. I am no longer that kid who would duck when ever there was a call for volunteers, desperately hoping to slip under the radar. The trouble is that I allow my past failings and other people’s negativity to rob me of what I could do now because I don’t want to fail and embarass myself. Yet thinking outside of the egg box for a moment, there was a time I didn’t know how to cook eggs but these days I make a pretty good omlette, wonderful scrambled eggs and to put it simply if I can confidently do that why can’t I now share my faith with confidence and without fear of doing a bad job. Yes I may fail, I may need some encouragement and a bit of help to start with but by saying I can’t I am not only robbing myself of a blessing but I am robbing others of a blessing.
And I know I am not alone as I have encountered many people who when encouraged to do something out side of their self imposed comfort zone say they can’t do it, too afraid to try as they fear failing and embarassment. But surely we shouldn’t allow the possibility of failing to be our focus we shoud turn our focus on to how great it will be when we succeed, why should we let a bit of self-conscious embarassment rob us of the joy of success. And so what if you fail the first time and feel a bit embarassed, I didn’t learn how to make a great omlette at the first attempt but over time I got better and that is what we should expect when it comes to doing something new and sharing our faith. We shouldn’t timidly try and do some thing once and then retreat saying I tried but I can’t, we need to keep pushing forwards and not allowing ourselves to be prisoners of the fear of failing.
So this is not only me encouraging you, this is me encouraging myself to stop letting the fear of failure prevent us from doing something now especially when it came to sharing our faith. And here is the big thing, you may feel like you failed the first time you try to share our faith or feel self-conscious but no matter what you will have planted a spiritual seed in a person’s life and maybe one day that seed will start to grow. In the meantime you need to keep growing that seed in your own heart and shutting it away is not going to help it grow.