We have become very good at hiding our failures. We hide them by blaming others, spinning the facts, avoiding the subject or finding a new project to focus on. However we hide them, we do ourselves and those around us a disservice.
I know why we hide them. Our culture has trained us to believe that failures mean personal weakness, ineptitude and humiliation. We believe as nonprofits that donors will only support us if we ride one success after another in the journey towards our charitable cause. We also struggle to believe that people will still value us if we have failed in our ministry efforts. We tend to think that failure is a sign of God withholding blessing because of our mistakes or miscalculations.
But below the cultural dogma of success and the misunderstanding of God's blessings, we really do know that failures are good for us . . . don't we? Sure we do. We know that failures help us understand the problem we are seeking to solve and give us new insights into what to try next. We know this because we see it in life. When a baby first tries to walk, there are many failures that slowly lead to learning and then to success. When we learned to ride a bike or drive a car, there were many crashes or grinding of gears before we masted the skill. Most of the time those teaching us did not reject us for those things or think less of us. Instead they encouraged us to persevere and learn from the challenge.
So, in the end, our efforts to hide our failures keep us from learning and growing with those around us and identifying new solutions. There is a new web site called http://www.admittingfailure.com/ that is seeking to help nonprofits get beyond this struggle. The site has been put together by Engineers Without Borders Canada and they are putting out a challenge for nonprofits to share their failures in an effort to learn from each other and create new and better solutions.
This is a powerful idea because it provides each of you with a chance to share a failure and see how that bit of learning will help others. I believe it is also cathartic because we can confess to each other our struggles and our failures and ask for their help and prayer.
Now here is the big question: "Will you be brave enough to selflessly share your failures with others?"