#22 – You’re a failure.


I can still remember the day, the afternoon, the moment even, very vividly.

We were living in France, where I was completing my Ph.D. One of the things I realized very early (like day one of each class), was I was behind essentially all my classmates on the actual subject matter of our courses.

A business Ph.D. is intended to create researchers. Professors who will teach others what is known in the discipline, but also (and more importantly according to many including those who ran my program) push the envelope of what is known. Research is the way the theories that are taught to business students come to be.

So it was a time I had a lot of required reading (many days I would have dozens of 40-page dense research articles I was expected to read, analyze, and be able to discuss) and had a lot of stress for feeling like I just couldn’t swing the course work. At one point I remember going to the head of my program and telling him that it seems like I just can’t hack it. I’m not up for the coursework. I had been getting grades that were something like 12/20 and on one exam (I think it was something like multivariate regression analysis – which honestly, I now barely remember what that even is) I had failed. You needed 10/20 to pass, and I got a 9. In all my previous schooling, I had NEVER tried as hard as I was then, and I had never had the sense of ‘I just don’t get it’.

Our kids were not necessarily thriving in French public school, an environment which still uses public shaming as a pedagogical method. Some teachers seemed to assume there was something wrong with our kids for being at the bottom of the class for reading skills (we tended to think it was because we had just thrown them into a school system in a language they didn’t know…but I guess we can agree to disagree on that one). I was driving to get our kids from the village school. The road to the school was a tiny narrow one-lane road lined with plane trees on both sides. It looked like originally was meant to drive up to the door of the church and stop, but it jogged over around the corner of the church (literally, with many scrapes on the centuries-old stone on the corner of the church where people had slightly misread the corner)

I was probably late, and was just managing this chicane in our beat-up used Renault mini-van when a motorbike came around the corner of the church towards me. I slammed on the brakes, as did he, but the lack of four wheels to balance on meant he lost his balance, and slid on the ground, scraping across the pavement and coming to a halt under the front of my car.

Once realizing no one was hurt, I got a little perturbed. What the heck was he doing darting out around the corner, GOING THE WRONG WAY ON A ONE WAY STREET?

He then proceeded to point out a sign, quasi-buried in the hedge on the other side of the barely-big-enough-for-one-car road, indicating to be careful of oncoming traffic. Not only that – his direction had the right away around the turn.

Cue a rather deep searching of soul, ending with essentially a brake-down inside my head.
I couldn’t pass the exam.
I couldn’t understand the concepts.
I couldn’t keep up in class.
I couldn’t provide my kids a good school situation.
Heck – I apparently couldn’t even drive.

So friend…..I’ve been there.

Feeling like you just can’t do what you’re supposed to do. What others think you should be able to. What you think you ought to. What everyone else seems to be able to.

When you get there -I think there’s one way out.

Accept the fact that you don’t perform your way through life.

Realise you don’t achieve your worth.

Be honest about the fact that your ability to get things done is not what will bring you contentment.


What have you failed at recently?
What do you feel you should be able to do – but somehow never got it done – or done enough – or good enough?

How much of your contentment has been lost by that ‘i’m a failure’ feeling?

How much of your value and your worth has been lost?
Sit for a minute to just dwell in the reality that you are not valuable to God because of what you can do. How you can perform. How good you do your tasks.
You are loved, accepted, valued – because God loves, accepts, and values you for who you are.

Nothing more. Nothing less.


Lord, you have made me who I am.
You gave me talents and abilities,
and at the same time limitations and weaknesses.
Help me remember you gave me both.
Remind me you love me not in spite of some things.
You just love me.
I don’t have to perform.
I don’t have to earn your love.

Thank you for that.