There’s this thing called confirmation bias. Britannica online defines it as “the tendency to process…by looking for, or interpreting, information consistent with one’s existing beliefs.”
I’m sure the phrase was not original to him, but my dad used to say, “A man persuaded against his will is of the same opinion still.” I’m not sure what “persuaded against his will” means, but we certainly hold tight to opinions regardless of evidence.
If we’re not careful, we take hold of a word or two that someone told us when we were impressionable and let those words shape us. Even when we have a boatload of evidence to the contrary—we remain “of the same option still.”
While some are terrified to fail, the poor grades I got in school made me think failure was just my reality. I joked that you couldn’t scare me with failure because we’re close friends. At least—I joked like that until a few days ago when my counselor challenged my failure mindset.
While learning, creativity, and anything worthwhile will likely bring failed attempts, I had let external failure become my internal identity. The fact that some people in my past thought I would not succeed somehow carried more weight in my thinking than my diploma, my BS and MA degrees, or all the ways God has chosen to use me in the past few decades.
I’m starting to re-think this word failure. I used to say that God doesn’t call us to be successful but to be faithful. While technically true, that statement can be misleading. Being faithful to God does not always result in successful outcomes; however, faithfulness is not separate from true success. Now I would say—
God calls us to the success of faithfulness no matter the outcome.
As a teacher, I used to tell my students that when they hand in a paper, if they gave it their best effort in the time they had, God considers it a good work—even if it earns a failing grade. That is hard for some to wrap their mind around. They think only an A (or perhaps a B) could possibly please God.
School isn’t the only place we get preoccupied with outcomes. In life we assume that the business we work for should always make money. Or the church where we serve should always grow in numbers and influence. Sometimes we stop being faithful to our relationship with God because we are deeply committed to making sure our venture thrives no matter what. Even if we don’t buy into a health and wealth gospel, we assume that since Psalm 1 talks about the blessed person prospering—we really are to have visible prosperity if we are pleasing God.
We forget that Joseph was as successful in the pit and the prison as he was in the palace. Jesus was a perfect success when He was condemned and died on the cross.
Words matter. I refuse to continue using the lense of failure when God has often given me the success of faithfulness. And I’m exploring a new word—resilience—that beats failure hands down.
I’m convinced all of us use less-than-accurate words to describe ourselves or our work. Would you ask God’s Spirit to help you find words to replace the ones that do not line up with how God views you? If you do, I believe you’ll discover that a mindset change is a significant step on the way to life change.
I would love to hear what deeply-imbedded words God has helped you replace.
End Note: I love the conclusions about success that Phil Vischer came to after his Veggie Tales dream crashed and burned. No matter your take on animated vegetables, you’ll want to see this 6-minute interview.