Over the past few years, I have had a part-time tutoring job. During a one-on-one session, I encountered a child frustrated by mistakes and failure. She kept muttering under her breath about not getting it right the first time.

It broke my heart because she reminded me of myself. I turned to her and said, “You need to make mistakes. They are a good thing. It’s the only way to learn. I am not going to get mad at you.”

The tension in her face dropped. She told me she only thought “mistakes are a bad thing.”

Yet, how was she supposed to learn on the first try if she didn’t go through the learning process to get there?

Suppose you are living in the United States, especially if you are part of a group that has been marginalized. In that case, you probably have received a message of “brokenness,” with expectations that you should follow an expected path.

“You should get it right on the first try. It’s easy. Everyone else is doing it.”

With this message, I am saying, “No more.”

You are not broken.
You are not sinful.
You are not shameful.

You are human. We all make mistakes and fall short of some idealized goal.

Perfection is a myth from fairytales. Real life is complex, challenging and bound for failure. 

It is impossible to go even a day without some type of “failure.”

We are expected to work beyond our capabilities and meet the unrealistic expectations of our families, social groups and churches. 

Every time, it seems the goalposts are moved or we do not live up to the expectations of those around us. Yet, what if I told you failure is a good thing?

Failure reminds you of your humanity. It brings you back to reality and away from the lie.

Failure tells us how far we have come, how much we have grown and what lessons we need to learn. 

Failures are often outside our control because we live in a world where crazy stuff happens. There is always a hurdle to jump or an obstacle to detour around. Life is hard.

To find answers, we can reimagine Jesus’ parable of the talents. According to Matthew 25, a master gave one servant one talent, another two, and another five. 

The servant with one talent did nothing to grow, while the other two invested and made more.

The master embraces the two servants and condemns the other. Seemingly, the servant with one talent was not so insane; he was scared and saved it instead. 

As I learned throughout my studies, parables are meant to be shocking. A reader can ponder the paradoxical actions from various perspectives. 

So, what if we don’t condemn the servant with the least? What if we imagine we were him?

He seems afraid of failure, the unknown and what he can’t control. All are reasonable fears and emotions. 

Maybe he didn’t know other ways to invest and grow it. He did not grow what he was given for whatever reason. Perhaps the system or society he lived in made it nearly impossible. 

This parable teaches us at least two things: grace for failure and the need to take risks. I believe God desires us to do what we can. 

For me, talent in the story isn’t about the monetary value of time or skills, which I thought it was about in Sunday School. The “talents” are what make you– you. We didn’t choose our gender, sexuality, skin color, brain chemistry, chronic condition, socioeconomic class of birth or genetics.

If we look at what we have or our work, blessings and hard work can be taken away instantaneously by natural disasters, debt, unexpected events or divorce. These waves can send our castles made of sand come crashing down. 

The only real thing that remains with us until death is ourselves. The “talents” we have to invest are who we are as people. That’s the real gift for however long we are alive.

We are responsible for what we believe about ourselves and our mindsets about the “failures” we encounter. Will we condemn ourselves, or will we learn? 

What will “failure” mean? What do we do with it? Is it the impetus for self-hatred or a powerful learning tool?

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