DTS Magazine

Ask Dr. Swindoll: How Do You Handle Failure?

Several times a year, Dr. Swindoll preaches in chapel at DTS and engages in a question-and-answer time with prospective students. Here are some of the questions he answered recently.

I need to confront a friend and I don’t know what to say or do. What advice can you give me on how to handle this?

Wise counsel is not always easy to give or hear. Proverbs 27:6 says, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” Did you know that the Hebrew uses an interesting verb stem here? It’s known as the “causative stem,” which allows us to render the statement: “Trustworthy are the bruises caused by the wounding of one who loves you.”

In genuine love, confront them with the truth—alone, in private, and say the hard thing that needs to be addressed. Remember that the bruising that comes after a verbal blow of one who loves is good and trustworthy. That bruise will stay with them—it stays with you—and you two will be better for it. Your friendship will grow. Such bruising is much more helpful and reliable than flattery. Good counsel is a good thing, even if it hurts to hear it, whether you are the receiver or the giver of that counsel. 

Confrontation is never easy. Remember that, because it’s also hard on the person who took the time to confront you and tell you the truth.

I preached for the first time and completely blew it. How do you handle failure?

It happens to all of us. Professors as well as students. Staff as well as leaders. Bosses as well as workers. Parents as well as kids. The diligent as well as the lazy. Not even the president of DTS is immune to making mistakes, failing at something, and doing the wrong thing usually with the best of motives. 

It happens with remarkable regularity too. So why are we surprised when we see it in others and we feel like quitting when it has occurred in ourselves? 

Many of us are guilty of not admitting we blew it. We have become experts at cover-up. 

Many bury their mistakes—they keep them secret. Don’t do that. Instead ease off a bit and embrace the grace. Learn from it and move on.

If our perfect Lord is gracious enough to take our worst, our ugliest, our failures, our flops, and forgive them, bury them in the depths of the sea, then we can do the same and give ourselves and each other a break. 

In fact, Christ promises full acceptance along with full forgiveness in print for all to read. Isn’t that encouraging? Why can’t we be that kind of encourager to one another? After all, imperfection is one of the few things we have in common. It links us close together in the same family! 

So then, whenever you blow it again—and it will happen again—don’t try to hide it. Own up to it, accept it, and learn from it.

Charles R. Swindoll
Charles R. Swindoll has devoted his life to the accurate, practical teaching and application of God’s Word and His grace. A pastor at heart, Chuck has served as the founder and senior pastor-teacher of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, TX. His leadership as president and now chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary has helped prepare and equip a new generation for ministry. Chuck and his wife Cynthia, have four grown children, ten grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
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