By Kendra Roehl
Do you need to know it’s okay to fail? I’m giving you permission today.
Learning It’s Okay to Fail
Stubborn tears streaked down his seven-year-old cheeks. Determination to do as well as his brother at snowboarding led to frustration and anger. It came out sideways through tears when he couldn’t quite measure up—at least not in his own eyes.
As I locked eyes with my younger son from across the room, I saw a familiar pain in his eyes—the struggle to want to succeed and do well no matter what.
He walked towards me, holding back more tears he hated to shed, especially in front of others. I pulled him close, trying not to make him feel like a baby. Then I whispered in his ear:
It’s your first time, bud. It’s okay to fall. Donnie’s a lot older than you. You’ll get it. It takes time. You’re doing really well.
He nodded as his eyes fixated on the floor. He exhaled as he looked into my eyes, finding reassurance from a mother who doesn’t like to fail either.
He’s just learning something it took me years to accept: It’s okay to fail.
Why It’s Okay to Fail
It’s okay to not always be the best. It’s okay to try and try and try again.
As I texted my husband and told him what happened, his response was characteristic of the cheerleader he always is for us: Send him out once more so he ends well!
I smiled as I saw his words. He’s a father who encourages his kids, without the same fear of failure with which I have so often struggled in my own life.
My husband reminds me to let our kids try and fail. He doesn’t worry about failing once, twice, or even countless times. He knows they’ll eventually succeed; he’s sure of it.
My husband’s definition of success means that you tried your hardest and did your best. If the activity is not for you, you move on to something else, knowing you did all you could. Fully believing you will be good at something. Whatever that thing may be.
A Family That’s Okay to Fail
As a family, we keep trying. We keep pushing our kids to explore the world around them, the interests and dreams they’ve already begun to cultivate, hoping it will teach them a lifetime of inquiry. A lifetime of learning. Of trying and failing, and dreaming and trying again.
I often tell my kids that I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up. I never want to stop pursuing the dreams in my heart that don’t end simply because I’ve gotten a degree, or a certain job or career. I want to always be open to the possibility of more, of something different. Something new. God-breathed and God-ordained.
What do I hope my kids will one day say of their mama when they are grown and gone from our home?
She never quit trying new things.
She never let fear stop her.
She pursued all God called her to and attempted to listen fully to his voice.
She never wavered from her belief that God can take failure and turn it into something beautiful.
And she encouraged us to do the same.
She taught us to dream, to risk, and to always try.
I will print these words and place them in a familiar place to remind myself it’s okay to fail. To leave room for risk and for change. To always be a girl who tries, and is okay with failing. Because what I want my kids to learn, I better be willing to model in my own life. I cannot teach what I do not know.
Can we all be okay with trying and failing? That attitude leaves so much room for God to work in us!
Wife Step: Where do you need to know that it’s okay to fail in your life? Pray that God will help you trust him more in this area.
Do it afraid. Kendra Roehl has sought to live out that advice as a social worker, foster parent, mother of five, public speaker and author. Kendra and her husband have become well-known advocates for foster care, taking in over 20 children in six years, and adopting three of them. She continues to care for others on their journeys as a frequent speaker, a founder of The Ruth Experience and an author of several books, including the One Year Daily Acts of Friendship: 365 Days to Finding, Keeping, and Loving Your Friends. You can find her on Instagram and Facebook @theruthexperience
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Yes to being a family where we can fail and keep trying without being judged and made to feel bad. Just today my teen son brought home a check I had sent in the mail to his high school. Problem was I had forgotten to fill out the check. Not the date or my name or anything. Totally blank. “I mentioned to him that I would fill it out and he could return it the next day. “Mom you always do things like that,” he joked. “No,” I said. “that’s the first time I have sent a blank check in.” And then we had a good laugh about it. Because I do make mistakes like that. And that is okay.
Oh, I love this! It’s freeing to rest in God’s grace and not strive to ‘do good to be good.’
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