One Sunday morning during Youth Day at Church, we were listening to testimonials from teenagers who had just attended a camp and mission trip. One of the young ladies gave an inspiring speech about how she felt as if she had failed so many times, and she was having difficulty dealing with it. The good news was that she found comfort during this particular trip that had allowed her to gain a different perspective on her life and feel better about herself.
But what I took away from it was my sense of surprise to hear such a young person speak up about having these types of feelings so early in life. After all, she was just getting started; thus, all the more reason for my surprise to hear this person was struggling with this issue. I felt sorry for her, not about whatever it was she felt unsuccessful in, but because she felt as if she had failed in the first place.
Many young people today put so much pressure on themselves in various situations to achieve. When that achievement doesn’t come right away, or even at all, they feel a great sense of remorse for themselves. They hold themselves accountable, often for things beyond their control. I know I probably did the same when I was a young man, but it’s not something that stands out to me. This is certainly not because I did everything right—quite the opposite. But rather than take it personally, I was merely disappointed that it didn’t work out as I had expected it to.
When a young boy or girl is learning to catch a baseball for the first time, their response is always the same: glove stretched out in front of them and head turned sideways to avoid getting hit by the ball. Is this the right way?—of course not, but is it failure when they drop the ball? No, in my opinion, it’s just all part of the learning curve.
It’s sad when teens feel this way, by holding themselves to some arbitrary standard and then not meeting their expectations. One of the advantages of getting older is understanding that no matter who you are, or how hard you try, you’re never going to do everything right. It’s all part of growing up and learning. As a matter of fact, it’s the ones that have “failed” the most that often have learned the most. Winston Churchill once said, “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” Oftentimes, experience breeds success, and through experience also comes a multitude of failures. I do empathize with those young people who place this label on themselves before they’ve earned it in any significant way. It makes me want to open their minds and tell them they may have made mistakes along the way, but mistakes are not failure, they’re simply an avenue you take to find the right answer. Consider these events, instead, to be an exercise in trial and error.
I don’t know the specifics of this young person’s situation who gave the testimonial that day, but I’m glad and proud of her that she had an awakening spiritual experience that helped her to see her misfortunes for what they really were, just part of growing up.
If you know of a young teen experiencing these same feelings, share this with them. Hopefully, they’ll see that this moment is but a blip on their timeline of life. There’s so much more ahead of them. There’s no time to fret over mistakes now; just keep working and moving forward and good things will come. Because that’s just how life works!