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My biggest failures

Last week, I posted a list of questions that millenials want to ask boomers. One of the things that they're better at than we are is transparency. They are able to tap into the painful stuff in their lives and share it. Sometimes when I'm in the room with them as they share their stories,…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

Last week, I posted a list of questions that millenials want to ask boomers. One of the things that they're better at than we are is transparency. They are able to tap into the painful stuff in their lives and share it. Sometimes when I'm in the room with them as they share their stories, it takes my breath away.

In fact, I'm perpetually challenged just trying to keep up. Today Karen and I are flying to debrief our 64 World Racers in Guatemala. To prime my pump for them, I'm going to answer some of their questions here, beginning with these two:

What was your biggest failure professionally, relationally and spiritually? What did you learn?

I've failed in a lot of ways, and even when I've been successful, I've felt inadequate.

Growing up, I failed to believe in myself. My mom did her best to encourage me, but my mind was filled with self-doubt and my spirit was shut down. I was confused and depressed. Can depression be equated with failure? Feeling like a failure made me one.

It felt terrible – like I was suffocating and wanted to die. I felt friendless. I longed to be known, but was isolated. I would retreat to my room and hide. I had none of the social tools to find the friends that my heart longed for. And my parents didn't know what to do with me.

Since that time, I learned an important lesson. You have to take risks if you want to be known. You have to entrust yourself to others, even when they haven't earned your trust. 

I've bet big on people and at times I've bet big on God. But doing so has its downside. Some of my biggest failures came because I trusted people with my future.

In 1984, my boss fired me. I probably deserved it, since i didn't respect him and my job wasn't adding enough value to the organization. But I was ill-equipped to cope with being unemployed. I took temporary jobs and applied to graduate school. It was a depressing time. My identity was too wrapped around what I did, and since all I was doing was working temporary jobs, I felt diminished and stunted.

In 1989, my friend fired me from the organization I'd helped him build. Actually, he demoted me and then the guy he put over me fired me. At that point we had four kids and Karen was pregnant with Leah. I had no job prospects. So I stressed out and internalized it.

In retrospect, it was a gift. It freed me to start Adventures In Missions and to become a more gracious person. In a way, it was a promotion. So, maybe my biggest failure was not perceiving it as a gift. I drew the wrong conclusion.

Comments (7)

  • I, too, was fired by someone I considered a friend at a missions agency. The person who fired me was later fired himself. The person who falsely accused me of an error was also fired. It is so difficult to handle when a fellow Christian turns against you on false charges, then never apologizes even though you see them at church every week. It hurts. We move on. God never deserts us even when people who use His name do so.

  • My Transparency,

    I recently had a failure with a leader of mine. I did not like him, but submitted to him for reasons of not wanting to be rejected.

    It ended in a blowout voices where raised on my part and trust was lost. We forgave each other. But just thinking about the whole time together leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

    I suffer greatly from performance issues so not wanting to be rejected, I followed, even though not wanting to be there.

    I am still trying to learn the lesson in this.

    I have to admit this failure has led me to sin and hopelessness. But it also has opened up a door to admitting I need help.

    At age 13 I was introduced to Porn that I found on my own and from another family member, unsuccessfully burnt in a trash can by the house.

    On and off till 31 I used porn, or any image, or the thought of women I saw during my day to fuel the need.

    For three years I was not as regular, following Christ with all that was in me, preaching sharing the gospel, loving on people.

    But after this blowout and being unemployed, Its been almost every night for 4 months straight.

    I want to go to my Church’s Celebrate Recovery to get help from powerful Men of God who have great life Change and Love. One of the sayings of our Church and Recovery is, Rules without Relationship equals Rebellion.

    God is a Good and Faithful Lover, King, Friend, and Spouse. The greatest part despite All that I have mentioned is Christ has never left me.

    Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Psalm 73:25-26 ESV)

    Well that’s my Transparency.

  • Seth, I love this transparent post! Am speaking to a group of leaders this week on how to build community, and you have done this for years. Thanks for leading out of weakness! Weakness and pain gives us a platform into people’s lives and hearts. Who would have thought that!

    I love the humanness of Jesus, coupled with the divine. You model this so well Seth.

  • Thanks Seth. I really appreciated this post. Do do a chronology of my failures in life would require a Papal Encyclical.

    But I have been learning that “even the righteous fall but keep getting up”. There is something holy about dependence on God which is often forged in the fire.


  • I struggle with trust. Trusting God and others. I no longer want to live connected to my past and what was done to me. But unfortunately, as much as I want to move forward at times, my past abuse does hold me back and overshadow my present experiences. I have been praying for deliverance and healing in this area.

  • G’day SETH mens man of God i lvvvvv reading yr blogs i send it to all my contacts and do get a lot of crap of what i post but it makes more stronger to post them more so when r u coming to Australia ??????? me and my pals long to hear u and see u cheers to a awesome day.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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