Failure As A Gift

By Mary Johnson, Director of Children's Ministries

This month, Melissa Perrin will be the guest speaker for two of our Adult Forums. Her topic of discussion, Failure as a Gift, will be well worth your time. I say this because I have had the opportunity to collaborate with Melissa on previous occasions and I greatly admire and respect her insight.

From my perspective in working with children, there is the essential balance of providing opportunities for children to succeed and fail. To ensure they acquire an appropriate amount of confidence, success is necessary. Equally imperative is the opportunity for the child to fail in order to nurture perseverance when things aren't perfect. Or, in the child's opinion, he/she has failed! Most success and failure assessments for children are in the arena of schools: graded tests, sports, the performing arts, art projects, and social interaction with peers.

We've all heard the horror stories of the "helicopter parents" who swoop in to make it all better when there is the perception of failure: didn't get the part in the play, got a C on a test, didn't make the A team in sports. I use the word perception because what may initially be a disappointment will in essence provide the opportunity to learn perseverance. The wonderful advice I received from Vicky Handwerk, my daughter Molly's third grade teacher, is as true today as it has always been: "you are not always going to be there to calm the waters, so yfailuresuccess.png (81 KB)ou better figure out how to build a stronger ship."

It's not easy to watch your child sobbing on the bed after a huge disappointment or defeat. And I learned from Vicky's advice that it's OK to let your child be sad, or hurt, or extremely disappointed, and that you don't have to try and "fix" it. Resilience prevails, and before you know it, you are enjoying the confident, successful, happy young adults you nurtured. That, to me, is success worth celebrating!

Some examples of what was initially perceived as failure....that ultimately became successes are:

* Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper because "he lacked imagination."

* Oprah Winfrey was fired by a television station because "she was unfit for TV."

* 27 different publishers rejected Dr. Seuss's first book "To Think It Happened on Mulberry Street."

* After his first screen test, the testing director wrote about Fred Astaire: "Can't act. Can't sing. Balding. Can dance a little."

* And we all know Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. Here is how he sums it up: "I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions, I have been entrusted to take the game-winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."