LEAven Blog


Failure is ALWAYS an Option…and Sometimes a Good One

Today’s blog is by Jay Lindsay. It was originally shared through the LEADnet listerv. It is published with permission.

I failed a class once. I am not proud of that fact, but it’s true. It was my junior year of high school, and I was assigned to a teacher whose expectations, at least in my immature teenage mind, were too high. I was already a lazy high school student to begin with, barely lifting a finger and a little too satisfied with B’s and C’s when I was capable of so much more. So, rather than increase my effort, I whined, complained, and used every excuse under the sun to not give my best. The entire time my mother just sat back, watched, and prayed. Once the final report card came in with a glaring “F” she sat down with me and very calmly said, “I am disappointed that you chose not to honor the gifts and talents God has given you, but no one can make you care. It is ultimately between you and God as to how you choose to face life’s challenges.” I took that lesson to heart, re-doubled my efforts, and eventually graduated from college with honors and earned a master’s degree with a perfect GPA. My mother was not afraid to let me fail and for that I will always be grateful.

Unfortunately, the world does not view failure as a legitimate and sometimes necessary outcome anymore, not even in schools. As a professional educator for over 30 years, it has become obvious that some parents are all too willing to do whatever it takes to avoid having their child experience struggle and failure. I have had homework turned in to me that was clearly completed by a parent. I have had parents threaten lawsuits for accusing their child of plagiarism. I have even had a parent accuse me of racism because I graded his child’s term paper too harshly. While those are extreme examples, it happens in small ways every day, like taking a child up to school to pick up a forgotten piece of homework, when getting an “F’ on the assignment might well have been the better choice. Please understand, I am not advocating that parents, especially of the youngest children, just sit back and watch their child self-destruct academically, and there are certainly legitimate learning obstacles that require intervention, but I do think parents would do well to let their child struggle and even fail at times because children of any age can learn a great deal from their mistakes and shortcomings while building resiliency. To constantly be “bailed out” or saved by a parent can do more harm than good.

There are dozens of examples in the Bible in which God used personal struggles, failures, and weaknesses to serve a greater purpose. Moses, who once killed in anger, went on to become the leader of God’s chosen people. David, though guilty of adultery and murder by proxy, went on to become the greatest king of Israel and forefather of Jesus Christ. Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthians (12:9-10) reminds us that failure and hardship can lead to God’s glory and our personal success when he wrote, “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

To God be all the glory!

Jay Lindsey, Jr. is a guest author this week. He serves as the principal at St. John Lutheran School and Church, Plymouth, WI.

Denise is the Director of Educational Resources for LEA. She is new to this position having served 35 years as a Lutheran educator in Florida and Missouri. Denise’s interests, besides education and ministry, are travel, walking half marathons, and eating excellent food.

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