The Fear of Failure

In the wake of Father's Day I have been reflecting on some advice my dad gave me many years ago when I was a young child. Like my dad, I love the game of basketball and growing up I would play every chance I got. My dad would take my brother and I to different parks in Baltimore looking to get a good run in. This often meant that I would have to play with bigger and older kids if I wanted a chance to play at all. I was always a late bloomer, so I was usually one of the shortest kids in my age group. It would feel like I was playing with giants, but no one wants to go to the court to just sit and watch.

I looked up to my brother and I always wanted to play with him and his friends. I was also very competitive so I didn't mind playing with the bigger and older kids as long as they passed me the ball. I remember a time where I was playing timid and was scared to drive inside the paint because of the towering figures that guarded the rim. My dad noticed my apprehension and pulled me to the side and told me, "Ryan, you can't be scared of getting your shot blocked."

As a kid who was younger and smaller than my competition, I constantly had to prove myself. Getting my shot blocked was very embarrassing and it amplified the insecurities I already felt by being at a disadvantage because of my size. I was afraid of humiliation, I was afraid rejection, and I was afraid of failure. But I heeded my father's advice and the result was I became a craftier player, a stronger finisher at the rim, and most importantly I became fearless.

Those words have resonated with me throughout the years. My dad was teaching me to have confidence in myself and to see that failing didn't make me a failure. Just because I got my shot blocked didn't mean that I wasn't a good player or that I didn't belong out there. Not being afraid of having my shot blocked meant that there were no shackles on my game and that I was willing to take chances even if the odds weren't always in my favor.

I've lived with that mentality ever since then, not just on the court but off it as well. You cannot let your fear of failure paralyze you from taking chances in life or from challenging yourself. Most of us have heard the famous quote by Michael Jordan, "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." Our fear of failure sets us up for a life of mediocrity.

As Christians, this fear of failure is often the result of a lack of faith and obedience. Throughout the Bible God is constantly reminding His people that He is on their side and that He is faithful to His promises. One of my favorite verses that illustrates this message is Isaiah 41:10 which reads, "do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand." In the New Testament Jesus removes our anxiety about the future by reminding us that God is concerned about the least of His creation (in our eyes) so of course He will provide for us (Matthew 6:25-34).

We must learn to trust in God and to overcome our fears if we are to enjoy the fullness of life. It is okay to fail as long as you keep an attitude of an overcomer. Failure brings wisdom and is the stepping stone to success. Don't let your fear of failure hold you back.

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