Fear of Failure

Embed from Getty Images

I think I’ve mentioned about a thousand times, I have a bit of a love for cycling and all that comes with it. This season more than most, I’ve been on the bike quite a bit and have been loving every second of it. I’ve been doing a whole bunch of trail riding, but I’ve also been in more races and bike events than I have in any single season before. It’s been magnificent!

Ever since I started cycling, there was an event that I wanted to conquer. It’s called the Dirty Dozen. If you haven’t heard of it before, it’s a race that includes the 13 steepest hills in Pittsburgh. It has become known the cycling world over as one of the toughest things that you could possibly put yourself through. Don’t believe me? Here’s a video:

So, I mustered up some courage and signed up for the race. Well, that’s actually not true. I’m still pretty scared of this beast, so I’ve just been telling people that I signed up for it while reserving the right to back out at the last possible minute. So as we’ve been spending the month thinking about fear, I’ve been wondering what it is that I’m afraid of when it comes to this race. It would appear that the answer is really clear: I’m afraid of failure.

I’m not afraid of pain. Though people certainly do crash in the Dozen, it’s usually going at the snails pace of about 3 miles per hour, so the likelihood of lasting injury is pretty minimal. I’m not afraid of the pain that will come from having busted my butt all morning, because that’s actually a pain that I revel in as a sign I’ve done something worthwhile. No, the biggest fear I have is that I won’t make it. I fear that I’ll be the guy who’s huffing and puffing up the 4th hill and decides that I can’t do it any more. I’m afraid I’ll be walking more than I’ll be cycling. I’m afraid I’ll fail.

All of that has led me to wonder why it is that we as humans fear failure in the first place. I mean of course, there’s an embarrassment factor. Lots of people will succeed where I might not, and that can be a bit of an emotional pain. But failure itself probably should be more respected than feared. Can’t failure be a great teacher? Isn’t the road to self-discovery lined with failures, and the intention to keep overcoming them?

When I think about the fear of failure, I think about Moses. I think about this Israelite standing next to a bush that refuses to burn up, and God asking him to take on a huge task. Moses lists a bunch of excuses, reasons why he doesn’t see himself up to the task of letting God’s people go. And in the end, all of his excuses come down to not wanting to fail. He doesn’t want to be made a fool in front of his people. God’s response to that is incredible. I think God gets it. In Exodus 4, with a clear bit of an angry tone, God says that God will go with Moses. This isn’t something that Moses is going to have to do alone. God goes with him, and thus victory will be all but assured, and even if it’s not, God’s going to go down swinging with Moses.

Isn’t that true of all of our experiences? God shows up with us, whether we find ourselves in failure or not. To believe in a God whose Spirit dwells inside is means that we are never truly alone in any of our endeavors. God will be with us when we succeed, but perhaps more importantly, God will be with us when we fail. And, just in case this is news I offer a spoiler alert, we will fail. Life is full of failures big and small, and they’re really not so much to be feared as they are to be experienced.

So I’m going to go ahead and sign up for that race. Probably. What is it that you’ve been too afraid to do, and could today be the day that you no longer fear failure?

blog comments powered by Disqus