How to Cope with Failure

Most of us do not want to have this word in our vocabulary. Failure means defeat! However, if we look at the most successful people in history we find that they had a great deal of failure, but it did not deter them from their goals for the future. We can look at Michael Jordan, Einstein, Edison and others. They had more failures than they did successes but pressed on to find successes that are well known to all of us.

How can we change a negative aspect into a positive end? It will take some work to learn to cope with failure. It will not change automatically.

How We Got Here:

We need to examine our upbringing. What did failure mean in our family of origin? Were we rejected? Accepted? Was it considered part of maturing with benefits or the end of the world? This environment sets us up for our perspective about failure.

However, it does no good to get stuck blaming our past environments for our perspective on failure. This only gets us “stuck” in the past. We are adults now and feeling self-pity and blaming others will not solve our problem.

Some of us see failure everywhere. We feel that we did not meet other’s expectations. We did not perform as well as others. We did not meet our own expectations. Personally, I often take responsibility for other people’s failures. Who taught me that behavior? It does not serve me well. That is a whole other topic that could be discussed at another time.

Our reactions to failure are varied. Some react to failure by getting angry and blaming others. Others get depressed. Others want to run away. My tendency is to check out! It is like I put myself in a cave and pretend I am not there anymore. I am convinced that I spent a great deal of time in that cave while growing up. No matter what category of response you fall into, none of these will help you cope with failure.


Judith Viorst, author. (img credit:

Failure is a perspective. What I call failure is not what others consider failure. I need to examine my criteria for failure and see if it is valid. Acknowledging I have failed does not need to end my existence. Actually, it helps me find a new course of action. If we are constantly beating ourselves up for these failures we will not be able to find this new course. Perfection and failure get linked together at times. Maybe my definition of failure is that I have to be perfect. Wow, I will NEVER attain that. I appreciated an author that convinced me to consider a new perspective on perfection. She stated that only God was perfect and when I want to attain perfection I want to be equal with God. This truth was shocking. She encouraged her audience to accept our humanity and give ourselves permission to make mistakes. (Necessary Losses, Judith Viorst)

Well, what does God say about our mistakes? Does He want us to be perfect?
The Bible gives us example after example of the failures of His people. He was gracious even at times when it seems that His grace would be exhausted. If God can forgive us of our mistakes, we should be able to forgive ourselves. That is where the problem exists. Many people live in bondage because they cannot forgive themselves. For those that believe that God died on the cross to forgive us for ALL our sins, it is not Him that is keeping us in bondage. We are making a decision to keep ourselves in this bondage. We need to ask God to help us accept His forgiveness for ourselves and get back into living our lives for Him.

Keeping ourselves focused on our failure will be constantly defeating. It will affect our outlook on life. It will promote workaholism. The list is extensive. It is our choice. Do we want to claim God’s power to live in peace and freedom or do we like the bondage that we carry around. I trust that you would choose the first option.

Failure can be a step into greater learning. Most of the learning I have received was through difficult times not the good times. God is walking alongside us but has not promised us a life without difficulties. He does not protect us from all pain, but He loves us with an everlasting love. He will not leave us or forsake us. Walk in His perspective and be free from the negative effects of failure.

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