The Fear of Failure (Atychiphobia) (three of nine)

Two Coaching Methods

As a soccer coach, I have noticed two perspectives in coaching sports. There is the coaching method that corrects every mistake a player makes. This coach often threatens to pull a player off the field if they continue to make errors. Fear of failure, it is thought, drives the player to perform. Then there is the coaching method that encourages a player to push their limits through experimentation and development. These coaches know that learning takes place through trial and error. The player is not negatively motivated by fear but encouraged to keep trying in the face of mistakes. They don’t fear failure but see it as a growth opportunity.

God's finger upon a person

God is like the second coach. He understands feelings of failure.

The fear of failure constricts and limits a person’s willingness to take risks and face challenges. They stop trying or settle for mediocrity for fear of failing. Being demeaned by another, experiencing an embarrassing situation, facing failures, or being unable to cope with failing can adversely control behavior and restrict interest in things you might otherwise be successful in. Avoiding failure appears to be easier than achieving success, so a fear of failure can cause a person to avoid competitive activities. Another form of the fear of failure is allowing the expectation of perfection in any activity to disqualify you.

When Israel faced the power of Egypt’s horses and chariots God instructed them not to fear (Ex 14:13). When they were called into battle for the Promised land anyone too anxious to fight was sent home (Deut 20:1-8). The ability to overcome the fear of failing in a battle came from God’s promise that he would deliver. It was not by might or power, but by God’s Almighty Spirit that success would come (Zech 4:6). This promise remains today for those who trust God as they face risks and difficulties. No one will ever be disappointed because they trusted God (Isa 49:23, Rom 10:11-13). Calculated risks based upon God’s promises is a step of faith and expands your horizons. You can overcome your fear of failure in evangelism, not by trying to be better at it or by becoming more persuasive, but by overcoming the fear of failure with faith. The compassionate presence of God is your strength and wisdom, not human skills (Isa 41:10).

Man facing the unknown future

Fearful thoughts generate superstitious thoughts (Pr 1:29-31). Such thoughts thrive where God is unknown and his ways are not taught (Isa 8:12-13). Fear arises from a lack of relationship with God. Fearing failure in relationships entrap people, paralyzing their thinking patterns, discouraging them from meeting new friends, and causes an unhealthy obsession over one’s own needs above others (1 Pet 2:17).

Knowing God is with you removes incorrect and superstitious thoughts about the spiritual world. God is engaged with the physical universe. He does send spiritual beings, angels, to protect us (Ps 34:7) as we abide in him (Ps 91:1, Mt 28:20). Furthermore, God’s acceptance isn’t based on our performance of good deeds, but upon the righteousness of Jesus Christ given to us as a gift (Rom 3:22-23, 8:10, 1 Cor 1:30, Gal 2:21).

The importance of knowing this can’t be underestimated. Christians are accepted and forgiven based upon Jesus’ righteousness and not their own. We need not fear that will ever change. God accepts us because he loves us and since God never changes neither his love for us will never stop. Diving into risks and challenges for his glory is possible because we don’t fear God’s punishment for failure. In Christ, there is freedom in his love to attempt things so great that if God isn’t present we will fail. But, since he is with us failure is nothing to fear.

Fear and Love Coexist

Fear and love coexist in the believer. Our healthy fear God leads us to reject and rebel against wrongdoing and evil. We love God so we accept faith challenges with optimism. Our passions are directed to pleasing God rather than ourselves. This takes away fearing the consequences of failing in God’s eyes. Our fears are under the control of the one who loves us. A fear of God keeps our passions healthy and directs us away from sin. It moves us toward God, his benefits, and into a life of obedience. God’s love motivates us to reach our highest potential by eliminating the fear of failure as we attempt to do the right things.

The fear of failure inhibits some from sharing their faith. They don’t want to say something that will be countered or to lose an argument, so they shy away from talking about reasons to believe in God. Surprisingly, a lot of people wish Christians would speak up more often. They are hoping someone has learned how to overcome the fear of failure and they want to know how to live without fear. Everyone fails. To varying degrees, we all have fears over making mistakes. God uses such fears to drive people to seek forgiveness found only in Jesus Christ (Mt 9:2, 5, Rom 4:7-8).

Two young women sharing faithPart of sharing the gospel is offering people the ability to overcome the fear of failure through freedom found in forgiveness. They know they have failed to live up to God’s standard of glory (Rom 3:23). What they want is to hear from someone who has overcome the fear of failure. By faith in God’s forgiveness and through the blood of Christ anyone can conquer their fears (Heb 10:18-22).

Personal Time: Read a number of the Scripture references. How does the fear of failure inhibit your ability to share your faith with others who face similar fears? Where does the fear of failure come from? Why are we easily intimidated when sharing our faith? Can you identify with others who fear failure? How does the love and acceptance of God overcome the fear of failure?

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