Purpose Driven Failure

One day a bunch of my coworkers and I were sitting around waiting for work to start. The phone rang, but none of us thought too much about it. Answering the phone isn’t part of our usual job. Normally there are other people who do that.

“Answer the phone,” said one of my coworkers to the person who was closest. For whatever reason, he didn’t answer it. Nobody answered it. The call went to voice mail.

My boss, who is normally a pretty chill guy, came over, and he was furious.

“All of you were sitting here, I was across the parking lot, and none of you could answer the phone? If one person doesn’t want to answer it, someone else do it. Do you guys know how to answer the phone? You press the green button and say, ‘Hello?”

My boss sighed in disgust, and went upstairs to retrieve the message.

“Why didn’t I just answer it?” I thought to myself. “Now my boss thinks I’m pathetically incompetent. Great.”

When my boss came back down, he told us the message was from a kid’s parents letting us know that the kid was going to be dropping in that day. By that time of day my boss doesn’t usually check for messages, so if he hadn’t heard the phone ringing from across the parking lot, we would never have known that kid would be in our care that day. The consequences could have been bad, all because no one wanted to answer a phone call. My boss was so mad and disappointed in us (and rightfully so) that he brought up the subject again for the next two days. I think all of us felt bad.

One moment’s indecision led to three days of lecturing, and a negative perception in the eyes of someone I didn’t want to think negatively of me. “All I had to do was answer the phone. Something so simple and easy, yet I completely failed to do it.” I felt like a huge idiot.

Granted, it was an odd situation. I don’t know why nobody else answered the phone. Work hadn’t even started, and it wasn’t part of our normal duties to answer phone calls. There were plenty of reasons available to use as excuses for why I didn’t answer the phone. After all, there were many other people who could have done it, people who were sitting closer to the phone than I was, and I kind of figured one of them would get it. Nevertheless, once it became apparent no one else was going to get it, I should have. The bottom line is I knew the right thing to do, and I didn’t do it.

Everyone fails sometimes. It’s a given. But then there are times when we might fail, and fail miserably. Sometimes we fail in ridiculous ways, at things we should have been able to do easily, things that are pretty common sense. Sometimes we know the right thing to do, and for some odd reason, fail to act. It seems like I’ve had a lot of these types of moments this past year. Every time something like this happens, I’m left beating my head against a wall, thinking, “Why in the world didn’t I just do it…?”

My boss eventually got over it (I think), but it doesn’t always work like that. It seems like sometimes when I’m in situations like this, I realize my mistake, try to fix it, but it only seems to make things worse. At some point people switch us off, and give up expecting anything from us, so no matter what we do, it doesn’t matter. They already have a fixed image in their mind of who we are, and they’re not willing to change that. I guess I can’t really blame them. When we fail at something that’s pretty basic, I guess it’s sort of hard to get over.

Hopefully we don’t have too many stupid moments, but it happens to everyone from time-to-time, and when it does, we can’t let it bring us down. It’s good to feel remorse, but we have to learn our lesson and move on. We can’t let it get to us, or we could end up making even more mistakes.

Sometimes people are not willing to forgive us. People are not always willing to give us another chance, but thankfully we have a God that is always willing.

It’s sometimes hard to understand why we fail at things we should have been able to do easily, things we don’t expect to fail at. It’s usually frustrating for everyone involved. It makes people disappointed in us, and understandably so. If you’re like me, you’re left feeling deep shame and regret. But moments like these are actually blessings. God uses times like this to mold us. He humbles us, exposes our weaknesses, and reminds us that we’re not all that great by ourselves, and that we need him. I think God does this to prepare us for the great plans he has, so that the next time around, when the stakes are higher, when it matters most, we’re ready.

At the end of the day, we’re stronger people because of the mistakes we make, as long as we learn from them. Our failures are not really failures, just lessons we need to learn from.


Proverbs 24:16

For the righteous fall seven times and rise again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.




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