Why You Don’t Have to Fear Failure {or Success}

photo by Teri Lynne Underwood

photo by Teri Lynne Underwood

Two well-known celebrities are having a conversation with each other.

One is in the midst of what the world would label as failure.

The other is experiencing what most of us would call success.

A comment is made that sounds like this: “We both know fame doesn’t change you. It just magnifies who you already are.” Both nod. And as I look from one to the other, I realize anew the truth in that statement.

We fear failure and it sounds like this…

If it doesn’t work I’ll feel foolish.

I don’t know if I can take the disappointment.

If I try and it doesn’t work out, what’s left for me?

We fear success and it sounds like this…

If this works, I wonder how my friends and family will feel about me.

I don’t know if I can take the pressure.

If I try and it works out, how will I handle the changes in my life?

I’ve experienced both and I can tell you this: neither failure or success are as scary as they seem from the other side. We shouldn’t fear either.

Here’s what we should be wary of: not growing right where we are now.

Because if we don’t grow where we are now, we will not be ready for what God has ahead for us–whether that looks like failure or success in the world’s eyes.

We’re responsible for obedience, not results.

So in some ways “failure” and “success” don’t even exist in our worlds.

Our identity, security and purpose are not tied to what happens. Woo-hoo!

Choose growth today and you are automatically choosing what’s best for you tomorrow. And you will be ready for whatever is ahead because you will be who you need to be to thrive through it.

Research has shown only about 10% of our happiness depends on our circumstances.

Isn’t that surprising?

It’s also powerful.

Because it means you’re not a victim. You’re a victor.

And no matter what the outcome may be, you can finish well.




p.s. Last week the “do what you can” step for your God-sized dream was to stop delaying and start doing right where you are. You can link up your post about that tomorrow in the God-sized dreams series and share your thoughts in the comments then too.


  1. says

    Leaning in and learning hard. And learning. oh yes, that there can be peace and joy in the midst of that growing process, because of just what you said – “We’re responsible for obedience, not results.” The pressure is off! Peace lies in our surrender and obedience. Thank you Jesus! We can REST.

    “So then, there is still awaiting a full and complete Sabbath-rest reserved for the [true] people of God; For he who has once entered [God’s] rest also has ceased from [the weariness and pain] of human labors, just as God rested from those labors [a]peculiarly His own. Let us therefore be zealous and exert ourselves and strive diligently to enter that rest [of God, to know and experience it for ourselves], that no one may fall or perish by the same kind of unbelief and disobedience [into which those in the wilderness fell].” Hebrews 4:9-12

    If we don’t learn to rest [in Him] while on the journey, we will never reach the promised land of joy and peace. We will die in the wilderness. That was my revelation, just this morning. Your words were such a confirmation of all I am learning! Thank you for continuing to be His mouthpiece. :)

  2. Lynn Morrissey says

    Great words of encouragement, Holley, and how true. And then, too, it depends upon how one defines success and failure in the first place. Christian “success” would likely be defined by the world as failure. In God’s kingdom loss is gain, last if first, and dying to self is living for God. Success is always about living for God.
    God bless you!

  3. says

    Thank you so much for this post! Just recently started a business venture & reading this helped me so much. Good change can be just as scary or challenging as bad change. Love your wisdom & willingness to share! :)

  4. Dolores E. Torres-Green says

    Aww Sweet Holly, how did YOu know this is EXACTLY what I so needed to hear today, friend? 😉 I am sending YOU a very special HUG, squeeze, and sisterly “Thank You” with tears streaming down my face from this release! :) I will go walk now after I share this posting! :)

    Dolores ♥

  5. says

    “We’re responsible for obedience, not results.”
    So often I struggle with what I’m supposed to do, as wife, mother, friend, individual. This is clear, and beautiful.
    Thank you.

  6. Gloria Estes says

    Wow, I needed this! I have had 4 bosses in 5 years at my position in a large HMO. Everytime a new one comes, they have different expectations, different ways to measure success and failure. I feel like I have to reinvent myself everytime this happens. I have felt so insecure since the arrival of boss number 4.
    I have recently been in the middle of a resurrgence of doing my work as unto the Lord. It is pretty clear I am not making anyone real happy on my own. Your article is just more confirmation of how important it is to live in the moment for Him and not for ourselves or for others. Thank you Holley. I read you every day and minister to my friends by sending your message their way given their different circumstances. You are truly annointed! I sign all of my work email with your quote, “She knew that many were the plans in her heart but that God’s purpose would prevail.” (Holley Gerth) So true of my life…so true.

  7. Kathy says

    I appreciate your perspective on fear and success. I have started a novel and find it difficult as each week at my critique group, it is shredded and I must re-write and try to distill the wisdom of what has been offered as far as my writing. There is a fear that I will just be spinning my wheels yet I have a strong desire to write about someone who lives with fear and seeks freedom. Thank you for dispelling my doubts about what I am doing as I feel the enemy would like me to abandon my writing. With experience, determination, and God’s guidance, I know this is His path for me. God’s purpose will prevail. There may be setbacks and disappointments but I can be assured that God is working within me, to grow strong in my spirit.

  8. says

    I love what you wrote, “Because if we don’t grow where we are now, we will not be ready for what God has ahead for us–whether that looks like failure or success in the world’s eyes.”

    I spent so much time searching for greatness that I missed much of my 20’s. I made a decision in 2010, after a house fire, that I would learn to ‘be here today’. To live life presently. To enjoy the blessings of now. I am in total agreement that growing where we are today will prepare us for what God has for us in the future.

    Thanks for sharing!

  9. phyllis hargrove says

    this isn’t exactly a spirtual dream-and maybe not a dream at all-but i have been thinking about taking sky diving lessons and have those exact thoughts of failing in my mind-it is so interesting that today’s post has a picture of the sky and clouds and that it addresses my fears-
    phyllis hargrove

  10. God with us says

    I have my major biology exam tomorrow and I am VERY excited about that!!
    I always study a lot but unfortunately I am not very smart. I am afraid of not doing well tomorrow because I of course want a good result and kind of a reward for all my studys….
    Anyways this helped me to relax and AGAIN (even thought I already did this a few times today) give it all up to God and trust him completely.
    If this is important for my further live or not he is in control and will give me the result I need.

  11. Jackie van Overdijk says

    Amazin post Holley and wisdom in your words, “Choose growth today and you are automatically choosing what’s best for you tomorrow. And you will be ready for whatever is ahead because you will be who you need to be to thrive through it.”

    This is what I have recently had to do…
    Bless you!

  12. says

    I love how you said we should choose growth. That is so true, we should always choose growth, no matter the fear of failure or even a fear of success. In both those outcomes there is growth.

  13. says

    only about 10% of our happiness depends on our circumstances.

    I am trying to deal with this issue by not complaining, but looking for the things I am thankful for. It is a struggle sometimes, but I am learning.
    Thanks, Holley for putting this in the perspective of whether we fail or succeed, as long as we stay in a good relationship with God, we will be happy.
    You are such a talented lady with words and with insight!

  14. says

    I never come away from your blog empty-headed, or empty-hearted either! Your posts are always thought-provoking and spirit-touching. Thank you for today’s wisdom: “Our identity, security, and purpose are not tied to what happens.” Indeed. Those things are tied to WHOSE we are, and HE’s in charge of what happens. We’re just along for the ride. Thank you for the needed reminder, Holley!

  15. Jennifer D says

    Ok, I’ve decided to embark on my God sized dream. I’m starting my Masters in the fall. I’ve been scared to death. I feel as if God and my husband have been pushing me to this. I’m so scared of failure. Thanks for this post because it’s what I’ve been feeling.

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