Failing in Public

By Deidra Riggs

July 21, 2018

In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself!

Mark 15:31


The other day, I was interviewed for a podcast. Normally, I quite enjoy being part of a podcast. Podcasts are often casual, fun, and the conversation flows pretty freely. But in the middle of this conversation, the interviewer said, “It’s been kind of hard for us to watch you, well, flounder over the past few months.” She went on to ask me to talk about how it felt from my perspective. What advice could I give listeners and all of that.

Items on a desk that remind of recent failures.In the months leading up to this particular interview, I have moved halfway across the country, had a major tour cancelled in quite a public fashion, experienced a huge disappointment with regard to the publication of my last book, and have been unable to snag an “impressive” job (or, for that fact, an interview for an “impressive” job). I have secretly wondered if onlookers consider me a failure. I’ve wondered if people even remember me and my two books and the speaking I’ve done and the so-called “influence” I’ve had. Sitting on my couch listening to this interviewer’s question, I no longer had to wonder.

However, through the years, I have learned that some of what we call “failure” is really just growth, or transition, or a lesson being learned. It is the act of discovering something new about ourselves and the world, or entering in to a new season, or becoming more fully alive. Sometimes, this internal work takes place in private, but other times it is a very public affair and, to others, it may look like what we have come to call “failure.”

Be careful of defining yourself by how others perceive you. No one among us knows all of the story and—thanks be to God!—not a single one of our stories is finished, yet. Of course, no one knows this better than Jesus, who hung on a cross between two thieves, died, and was buried in a borrowed tomb. As far as anyone could tell, this self-proclaimed “Light of the World” had been snuffed out. For good. But you and I both know the rest of that story, and it is so very far from failure.

Something To Think About:

When was the last time you “failed” in public? Was it truly a failure? Why or why not?

Something To Do:

Write out your own definition of the word, “failure.” Don’t use a dictionary. Just write out words to explain how you understand “failure.”


Lord, help me not be so hard on myself, or on others. Teach me to be full of grace, as you are toward me. Thank you for working all things together for good. Amen.


Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentarySeven Happy Lessons from Failure

Deidra Riggs

Writer & Author

Deidra Riggs is a national speaker, an editor, and the founder and host of Jumping Tandem: The Retreat, a bi-annual event for writers, authors, and entrepreneurs. She is a storyteller who creates safe space for navigating...

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