Failure is Essential

“Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” It is an old saying. Put more simply, if we aren’t risking anything, we aren’t likely to see much in the way of results. You can’t be great at everything the first time you try; you have to be willing to risk failure. You learn from failure. You get better. A lot of my favorite creators have said something to the effect of “Failure is an essential step to greatness”. I believe that.

As Emerson put it:

All the great speakers were bad speakers at first

The thing is, it is also terrifying. Investing in something and seeing it fail is awful. It can be hard to build up to taking a risk. There are so many times when, rather than actually finishing with a post like this, I am glad for a deadline that require me to find peace and hit publish.

Failure, though, is part of growth. Not just the attempts, but facing those things that went wrong and being confident in trying again, better informed and prepared.

We have, in the Principles of Unitarian Universalism, a promise to encourage spiritual growth. Since we don’t really differentiate “spirit” from “intellect” or “artistic vision” or any other form of self actualization, I read this as a commitment to help one another be a better person in whatever ways we can. Improvement means taking risks and trying new ideas and ways of thinking. We can’t be better activists without risking hurting some feelings, especially our own. We can’t be better allies without risking getting something wrong and having to make amends. We can’t read people in on our struggles without exposing ourselves, too.

We have to be willing to take risks or we cannot do the big things that our faith asks of us. We have to work together, lending our skills to others and allowing them to help us improve. We have to try, even if it makes us look foolish.

This is a time for risks. The world needs creative troublemakers and innovative encouragers. We may be on the verge of a renaissance or catastrophe. We can help tip it. There are some efforts so worthy that even failing in them is noble.

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