Failure is not a word

Literally, it’s nowhere to be found (according to God)

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I’m waist deep into prepping for a religious conference for young adults next week, which equates to 100+ tabs open on my Google Chrome, ranging from Old Testament scripture to oddball memes of Donald Trump.

In the middle of all this web mining, I struck a nugget worth rinsing through the stream of collective consciousness and polishing with the help of other thinkers (i.e. you):

Nugget: The word “failure” is not in God’s lexicon.

I began by searching in my preferred scriptural index, found on

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I then went on to other Christian Bible indexes:

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I did however find one virile reference in the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New World Translation:

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So, there you have it. With the exception of breeding bulls, there’s no mention of failure in the collective works of God.

Now, you undoubtedly have one or two or more arguments bubbling to the surface, as did I, which is where I’m hoping to generate conversation.

Argument #1: This is a convenient play on words. “Failure” does not “literally” exist in God’s written word because it didn’t “literally” exist in that etymological format.

Try searching “fail” or “faileth” instead.

Correct. “Failure” as a word is relatively new to the vernacular of mortal men, as can be witnessed by our 21st century higher power (aka Google):

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As seen in the graph above, the term “failure” entered into the Google Books Ngram Viewer, depicts the birth of the term in the corpus of English literature in the 1750’s.

For the non-historians or chronologically challenged, 1750 is a long while after John penned Revelations, the final book in the Bible.

It’s also correct that “fail” and “faileth” are both found in both the Old and New Testament. A few recognizable examples include:

“Charity never faileth…” — Paul, 1 Corinthians 13:8

“Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth.” — Jesus, Luke 12:33

My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart… — Asaph, Psalm 73:26

As you’ll note by the examples provided above, however, the term “faileth” does not carry the same definition as today’s “failure,” (nor does it carry the heavy emotional burden).

In fact, they have little to do with Google’s #1 definition of failure, which is tied to the concept of success:

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Nor do they correspond with the #2 definition, dealing with negligence or deficiency:

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Instead, God’s definition of failure ranks #3 and comes in below the fold and completely obscured:

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I realize I’m now overstepping my authority in speaking for God, but given the evidence above, I suggest that our fixation with failure has nothing to do with heaven’s definition of success.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.” — The Lord, Isaiah 55:8

It’s always a good reminder.

Argument #2: Maybe “failure” as a word doesn’t exist in God’s ancient records. But neither does “grapefruit,” “jacuzzi,” “Kardashian,” or thousands of other terms commonly used today.

That doesn’t make it less of a reality.

What if we consider for a minute that failure isn’t a principle consistent with the eternities?

What if we’ve made up the idea of “failure” in our minds and have wrongly nurtured it like the ragtag gang of velociraptors in all five Jurassic Park movies, (notwithstanding their possible redeeming qualities, including an affinity for Chris Prat —seriously, who doesn’t like that guy).

To further examine this argument, I jumped back into scripture to see what words God does use in place of “failure.”

Here are the Top 3 contenders (instances in the Old + New Testament — King James Version):

  • Sin (627)
  • Iniquity (214)
  • Transgress (50)

Let’s take sin, which seems to be the standout among the alternatives.

How does God define sin?

“Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” — 1 John 3:4

Sin sounds scary and just as intimidating as the concept of failure, that is until we read the next verse:

5 And ye know that [the Lord] was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.

According to Biblical texts, there’s no doubt that man has fallen (Adam and Eve covered that for us years ago), but the concept of sin always comes with a healthy serving of redemption, as guaranteed as the toy in a McDonalds Happy Meal.

Too often, “failures” fall squarely on our own shoulders.

It’s easy to be a failure or a success in today’s world without God, but it’s impossible to be a saint or sinner without recognizing a divine attachment.

To embrace the reality of sinning is an acceptance of both our mortal and immortal state.

It ties us to a power greater than ourselves, which in turn brings new definition to our struggles.

Nelson Mandela exemplified this principle. In the face of praise and accolades the world over, he humbly responded:

“I’m no saint — that is, unless you think a saint is a sinner who keeps on trying.”

Redefining failure through God’s eyes

In God’s model “failure” is non-existent while sin, or the act of falling short of our divine potential, is not only acceptable, it’s a purposeful ingredient baked into our personal development.

In the ancient record of God’s prophets on the American continent, we find the following passage:

“And if men come unto me [the Lord] I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”
-Ether 12:27, The Book of Mormon

What if you viewed weakness as not a shortcoming, but rather proof of divine participation in God’s plan for us?

What would happen to us, to our well-being and sense of self, if the word “failure” were eradicated from our modern-day vocabulary?

Some of the greatest minds have managed to arrive, Thomas Edison being one of the more famously quoted:

“I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”

This, I believe, more appropriately captures the essence of sinning or falling short than many of us would have ourselves believe. Instead of congratulating ourselves for successfully learning through trial and error, we prefer the mental and emotional self-flagellation that serves no one, especially ourselves.

Jordan Peterson, in his most recent book, 12 Rules for Life, talks at length of our disposition to be blinded by the fallen man or woman in each of us, to the point where we subconsciously treat ourselves as much much less-than-divine:

“If we wish to take care of ourselves properly, we would have to respect ourselves — but we don’t… If we lived in Truth; if we spoke the Truth — then we could walk with God once again, and respect ourselves, and others, and the world.”

He then offers this helpful advice as a counteragent to our unnatural tendency to dwell on our natural fallen state:

“We deserve some respect. You deserve some respect. You are important to other people, as much as to yourself. You have some vital role to play in the unfolding destiny of the world… You, therefore, have to conduct yourself habitually in a manner that allows you some respect for your own Being. … Every person is deeply flawed. Everyone falls short of the glory of God. If that stark fact meant, however, that we had no responsibility to care for ourselves as much as others, everyone would be brutally punished all the time. That would not be good. That would make the shortcomings of the world…worse in every way. That simply cannot be the proper path forward.”

To focus on the “reality” of failure serves no one. It serves zero purpose in the world and fuels acts of self-hatred at best and mass genocide at worst.

As Jesus taught in the Gospels, “No man can serve to masters.”

You cannot love God, hate yourself, and expect good things to follow.

What if instead of fighting against our fear of failure, we simply eliminated the word from our personal lexicon? It is, after all, a word that has never existed for our divine parents.

What if we looked at falling short, or sin, not as a roadblock in the path of progression, but simply another of thousands of stepping stones?

What if, we took from the words of Nelson Mandela:

“I’m no saint — that is, unless you think a saint is a sinner who keeps on trying.”

…and Thomas Edison:

“I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”

and remixed then to acknowledge the most essential truth of our human experience:

“I didn’t fail 1,000 times — if you consider that a saint is an invention of 1,000 steps.”

Where our next steps lead, are completely up to us.

Helping you be happier & more creative by developing a Traveler Mindset:

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