My daughter came home from school last night in her normal mood. But, as the evening wore on, I noticed a change in her demeanor. She became quiet, distracted.
“Mom,” she finally blurted out. “I don’t want to get a zero.”
The story began to unfold as she explained to me that she had a spelling paper due the next day. She had done the work, but the paper was missing. It was not in her homework folder, and she could not find it anywhere. She had checked her desk, her locker, the house, the car. The paper was simply missing. She had apparently attempted to discuss the situation with her teacher, and she had been met with a much less than sympathetic response.
As the tears streamed down her face, the mama bear within me wanted to take the situation into my own hands. I wanted to let this teacher know that my precious child is a very responsible little lady with a heart of gold. Everything she does she does to the best of her abilities. She is always at the top of her class, and I expect her to succeed just as much this year as in the past.
However, instead of letting mama bear escape from her cage, I took my daughter in my arms to console her. We began to talk about what we could do to remedy the situation. Could she have an opportunity to redo the paper? Could she get it redone before it was due during the last period of the day? Could she recheck her locker and desk and all of her classes?
After discussing the options, we began to discuss the consequences of getting a zero. What if she gets a zero? She will learn a lesson. She will be more responsible with keeping up with her papers. Chances are, she will have so many good grades during the rest of the grading period that she will still make an “A” on her report card. In the grand scheme of things, a zero is simply not that big of an issue.
As we talked, I tried to console her with my own story of my first failing paper. I was in fourth grade—just like she is—and I remember collapsing in tears. It was the most awful thing to see that big red “F” next to my name! However, I recovered—and still made an “A” in the class—just like she will. No one would consider my academic endeavors a failure. I tried to help her see that one failure does not make any of us a failure; it is a single event in our lives that makes us human—and often inspires us to much higher levels of greatness.
Throughout the evening, I continued to encourage her as she dealt with bouts of sadness, grief, and fear. She asked me to talk to the teacher for her, and I refused telling her that she had to be the one to face this issue head on. She asked if she could skip school, and I told her she had to go. We began to talk about how to handle problems. As she worried and fretted, I reminded her that worrying does not benefit us. We quoted Philippians 4:6-7 together:
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
We bowed our heads together, and we prayed that God would help her find the paper, that He would resolve the situation. We prayed that His peace would guard her heart and mind. I sent her off to school this morning with more prayer and a plan that she had developed on her own.
As I write this article, I have no idea what the outcome of this situation will be. As much as I want my angel to be happy and successful, there’s a part of me that longs for her to fail—to see that big, fat zero next to her name. I don’t want her to fail because of the pain it will cause her, but I want her to experience failure so that she can learn. She can learn how to fail well, to use failure to push her forward and make her a stronger person. She can learn how to fail so that she is not paralyzed by the fear of failure, which will hold her back in life. She can learn how to leverage failure for her benefit now, which will make her a better person in the future. She can learn that failure is an inevitable part of this life, but it doesn’t make her a failure. She can learn to fail now while she is under my roof so that I can help her through the process, where she can have the love and compassion of a mom who loves her more than life itself. She can learn to fail now where I can help her turn to her Savior—her Heavenly Daddy—who can take her failures and make something beautiful out of them (Romans 8:28). She can learn how to fail so that she can have courage to try again in the future.
Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. Proverbs 16:3
There are so many things I could have done if I had been willing to try—if I hadn’t been afraid of failing. I don’t want any of my children to be afraid of failure. I want them to be willing to take risks, to face the possibility of failure so that they can experience the most abundant life possible. I don’t want them to look back as adults and have regrets about the things they should have done. I want my kids to know that sometimes God asks us to do things that seem crazy, things that require faith and courage. I want them to be prepared to take a leap of faith when God calls them to do something amazing for Him!
Lord, I pray that you would help my children learn how to fail. Teach them that you are always there to take their failures and turn them into amazing testimonies of your grace and goodness. Help me to model the right way to handle failure so that my kids have the courage to serve you wholeheartedly—with courage and not fear!