Monday, March 05, 2007

So you think you've failed? (Part 1)

As I coach, I am blessed to have the opportunity to connect with people in a deep and meaningful way. I have talked with CEOs, moms, VPs, pastors, business owners, sales professionals, and consultants. One thing that is frequently appears throughout the conversations is the fear of failure.

So, today I wanted to share a story with you. Many of you may recognize it because it is well over 2000 years old. I am hoping that I can give you a new perspective that puts it in a little different light. It's a story from the Bible about a man named Abram.

Here's how it goes from Genesis 12:1-4 of the Bible...

The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." So Abram left, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran.

Ok, now here we have our protagonist, Abram, who was asked by God to go somewhere. God didn't give him directions, He just said that He would show Abram the way. WOW! How trusting of Abram to just pick up everything and go!

So what did Abram do? Let's read a few more verses... (Gen 12:10-16)

Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, "I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, 'This is his wife.' Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you."

When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that she was a very beautiful woman. And when Pharaoh's officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace. He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, menservants and maidservants, and camels.

CAN YOU BELIEVE IT!?! Abram ran into a little trouble (ok, a famine) and then brokered a deal with his WIFE. He thought they, the Egyptians, would kill him to take his wife, so Abram basically SOLD HIS WIFE to the Pharoah for lots and lots of things. Today we'd call him the lowest of pimps, right?

I mean, he did get all kinds of good stuff for her... today it would've been MP3 players, SUVs, mansions with maids and butlers, HDTV with DVR as well as ca$h - just terrific stuff. I mean, terrific if you don't mind putting a price on your wife.

So then what happened? (Gen 12:17-20)

But the LORD inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram's wife Sarai. So Pharaoh summoned Abram. "What have you done to me?" he said. "Why didn't you tell me she was your wife? Why did you say, 'She is my sister,' so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!" Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had.

So God punished the Pharoah because Abram lied to him! Is that whacked? In today's world, we'd look at Abram and call him a real swindler.

In Abram's own eyes, he was a total failure. Here was a good man making a BIG mistake. But, God knew he was trying to do his very best and so Abram (Abraham) was rewarded anyway.

You may think that is the end of the story, but it's not. Look what Abraham did in Genesis 20:1-3.

Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar, and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, "She is my sister." Then Abimelech king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her. But God came to Abimelech in a dream one night and said to him, "You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman."

Yes, you read that correctly! Abraham (formerly known as Abram) told the king that his wife was his sister. His excuse (see if this sounds familiar):

And Abimelech asked Abraham, "What was your reason for doing this?" Abraham replied, "I said to myself, 'There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.'

And what happened to Abraham?

Then Abimelech brought sheep and cattle and male and female slaves and gave them to Abraham, and he returned Sarah his wife to him. And Abimelech said, "My land is before you; live wherever you like." To Sarah he said, "I am giving your brother a thousand shekels of silver. This is to cover the offense against you before all who are with you; you are completely vindicated."

So, while Abraham was truly trying to do his best, he sold off his wife TWICE! In exchange for his wife, he received lots of cool stuff. And, even when his beautiful wife was returned to him, he still got to keep all the cool stuff AND more.

My message to you today isn't a religious one. There are 2 points to it:

  1. Don't be afraid to follow your heart - even if you're not quite sure where it leads you. God kept his promise to Abraham even though Abraham messed up a few times. Gen 12:2 "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing." Gen 22:17-18 "I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me."
  2. In all that you do, do it with integrity, honesty and always give it your best. That doesn't mean that you won't fail - we all do. What it means is that your failure can still be rewarding to you. Abraham's failures were rewarding to him. Now, I'm not suggesting that you try to sell off your spouse - although some of you may think that is a good idea at times. ;) Be true to you - your heart and your soul - and no matter what circumstances may appear, you will not be a failure.

Come on, go do that thing today that you have been fearing. Do it with the best intentions. You can cure your fear of failure by taking action today!

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