Jul 28, 2008 by Don Payne | 1 Comments
Understandably, but sadly, failure receives a lot of attention within the Christian community. At least this is the case in circles (such as seminaries!) that prioritize evaluative reflection and promote high standards of integrity for Christian faith and ministry. It's understandable because we have seen and continue to see so many instances of Christians "falling off the pedastal." Furthermore, if we understand the pervasiveness of human sin, we know our inclinations. It's sad for these same reasons. Our formation processes can then easily gravitate toward preoccupation with risks and shortcomings. A healthy watchfulness and sobriety (clearly enjoined in Scripture) can easily slip into a subtle form of paranoia and paralysis.
Of course, when failures of any type occur we need others (like wise mentors) to help us process those experiences and grow from them. Mentors of this sort help us not repeat our mistakes. I wonder, though, how a preoccupation with mistakes and failure may carry a hidden price tag, part of which is a fear of success (however that is to be defined), an underdeveloped ability to grow from and build upon success, and perhaps even an inability to celebrate and integrate success into an authentic holiness.
Hence, one underdeveloped aspect of mentoring is helping people process success (and I use the word "success" unapologetically, despite its baggage). By "success" I have in mind both success at what we DO and success (including progress, faithfulness, growth, etc.) at who we are. I'm often struck by Paul's comment in Romans 15:14: "I myself am convinced, brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another." This, after fourteen chapters of teaching and, in some cases, correction.
What do mentors do that helps us deal well with success? Here are a few ideas. They help us know how to integrate successes with humility and gratitude to God while not moving into a false, cheesy piety. They see the good that God has built into our lives that, for whatever reason, we can't see. They bless that good work of God and call us to move forward with courage and confidence. They keep us from taking our successes too seriously while giving us the freedom to enjoy and celebrate them. They help us see all success and progress as a gift of God for which we need be neither ashamed nor embarrassed.