I Am A Failure At Life

I am a failure at life.

I never taught my kids to ride a bike. One child figured it out on their own. But then the tires went flat and needed to be replaced and I never made it to Walmart to buy the new inner tubes. Well, I made it Walmart. I just never bought the replacements. There are currently two bikes in our shed. Both in need of repair. Two children don’t even know how to ride them.

And it isn’t just the bikes. There are so many ways I have failed my children. So many opportunities they have not had. So many times I procrastinated something away. So many missed chances to have a family fun night.

It has even been so bad that my daughter felt a B was a failing grade. I never told her this. In fact, I was encouraging of the hard work she put in. But she watched me while I went through grad school. She has heard me criticize my work and efforts over and over. Based on her observation of me, she has learned that anything short of perfection is failure.

I have failed my wife again and again and again. The lying, betrayal, deception, silence, and who knows what else have popped up more times than I care to admit. She has forgiven me many times. I do not know where she gets the strength. I often think how much better she deserves.

There are times I lie awake at night feeling miserable. I start thinking about the things I have not done; all the opportunities missed; all the time wasted.

And I cannot shut up the thoughts that continue swirling.


That’s why I drank.

I couldn’t deal with failure. If I wasn’t perfect at everything, it was not good enough. I beat myself up constantly with statements like, “How could you do so poorly?” “Why can’t you get this?” “What is wrong with you?”

I couldn’t deal with conflict. If someone disagreed with me, I would shrink into my shell trying to figure out what it was I was doing wrong to make someone not love me.

As a preacher, people leaving the church HAD to be my fault. If I would just preach better, teach better, visit more, answer more questions, solve more problems, then people would definitely stay and bring more people with them.

At least in addiction, I could pass out. Now, when I feel this way, I am just miserable.


It is not only addicts who feel this way.

This coming weekend, my Dad will attend a church of about 20 members. My brothers will attend churches of a couple hundred. One of my friends will attend a house church with 10. I will attend church of 2000.

All of us have this in common: there will be people present who feel as if they are failures.

And they will probably be hiding it. Hiding it behind their Sunday best, their piety, their photo-ready family who is all smiling so pretty. They will be hiding it by talking about anything and everything other than their discouragement.

Or they may not be hiding it all. They may arrive with disheveled clothing and eyes puffy from crying. They may be wearing their emotions on their sleeves.

(Unfortunately, we may run away from them and try to make conversation with the people who can hide it better.)

And then we can all leave and go back to our daily routines of hiding behind our addictions—whether those addictions are drugs, alcohol, work, pornography, shopping, food…

Hiding from our struggles is so much easier than facing them. (Even when the hiding just creates more struggles.)


Here’s the deal: I am not a failure. You are not a failure. Some days, I think I am. Some nights, I lie awake at night because I am telling myself I am not good enough. But that’s not the truth. I have made mistakes, I have said bad things, I have not come through in areas where I really wish I had.

But I am not a failure.

Actually, maybe I am. (Have I totally confused you yet?)

I am a failure at living an unrealistic life I created for myself with expectations that are too lofty for anyone to accomplish. I have failed at that life. Because it is an impossible life. I have failed to be the perfect husband, father, person because all of that was based on me doing all the things I told myself I needed to do to make myself complete.

So I am a failure at (that) life.

And I am grateful for that.

Now I can focus on taking life one day at a time, on being honest, on doing the best I can each day, on admitting my mistakes and learning from them, on facing my fears and not running from them.

If you think of yourself as a failure, I would like to ask what standard you are using to measure. Because my hunch is you’re not doing as bad as you are telling yourself.

Let us learn to give ourselves a break. Let us learn how to live in today.



So hard to find. So hard to accept. So necessary for surviving. So necessary for thriving.

I don’t like to rest. I feel lazy. I feel non-productive. I feel as if I am wasting time.

And I also am tired, exhausted, worn out. I am not really able to complete anything well because I don’t have the physical or mental energy required. Without rest, I often settle for good enough. Which drives my perfectionism crazy! I must do better. So since I am tired and only doing “good enough,” I must work harder and more often.

Why don’t I rest?

As a parent, I know my children need sleep.

As a therapist, I know the value of rest for mental health.

As a minister, I know the value of rest for spiritual health.

As a teacher, I know that my students need to rest to become more successful.

As a recovering alcoholic, I know that if I do not rest I put myself at higher risk to relapse.

So with all that knowledge, why don’t I rest?

I am on vacation this week. I have nothing planned. I am reading, writing, and watching TV. I am moving from sleeping to sitting. I am talking with friends and family. I am accomplishing nothing.

And it is wonderful.

We can’t all take vacations whenever we feel like it.

But we can all rest. We can all disconnect. We can all give our bodies the chance to recover.

If only we choose to do so.

So here is my challenge to you this week:

Do nothing. Take a break. Relax. Breathe. Even if it is only for 30 minutes. Find some time to be as non-productive, lazy, and time-wasting as you can be. You have permission.



Is just “being tired” good enough?

I mean, is being tired a good enough reason to quit doing that thing that you never should have started? Is it okay to simply say I want to stop harming myself in a variety of ways?

Is it a good enough reason to start doing the right thing? Is it okay to say I want to make healthy choices now?

Just because I’m tired?

12 Step groups have a saying: “I got sick and tired of being sick and tired.” But is being tired a legitimately good reason to make changes in one’s life?


Being tired means a lot of things.

It means I am worn out. It means I have been trying to do this on my own. It means I am ashamed of what I have done. It means I am afraid of consequences both current and ongoing. It means I am ready to give up. I am finally ready to admit I need some help.

Maintaining a life of addiction is exhausting. Continuing to live a life of hypocrisy takes a ton of energy. There is so much planning and plotting that needs to take place. There are so many stories that need to be developed. There is checking and re-checking to make sure the same lies are being told. There is constant paranoia of everything that is so thinly held together finally falling apart.

And then there is the guilt. Guilt at damaging one’s own physical and spiritual body. Guilt at damaging our family relationships, work relationships, friend relationships. Guilt at letting people down. Guilt at feeling so guilty that the only way we can get over it is to take more of the drug that led us to feel guilty in the first place.

All of it is so overwhelmingly exhausting.

But I still ask: is that enough to start making changes? Shouldn’t there be some sort of light bulb idea, a moment of clarity, an urge of a convicted conscience to do the right thing?

I don’t know. Maybe.

What I do know is this: I just wanted to stop.


Addicts in early recovery are tired people. Their bodies are going through withdrawal. Their routines have been altered. They are starting to pick up the pieces and mend that which was broken. Some people in early recovery have difficulty sleeping because their drug of choice was a depressant. Their bodies don’t know how to go to sleep without it. Some people in early recovery do nothing but sleep because they are so depressed and filled with fear they do not know what else to do.

Addicts in early recovery are not looking to be coddled. Or to be seen as a victim. Or to be pitied. But they would love to not be tired anymore.

And that is why being tired is a good enough reason to start making changes. Because on some days in early recovery, I didn’t want to not drink. I wanted to not be tired.

I was appreciative in those early days of recovery when people simply said, “Good to see you,” and meant it. Because I hated answering “How are you?” But I was grateful for those people who were genuinely glad to see me. I was grateful for the numerous people who babysat my children so that I could go to a meeting. Or spend time alone with my spouse.

I was grateful for those people who supported and encouraged me because I was too tired to do anything on my own anymore.


For those of you who are not addicts but are in relationship with people who are, please remember this: you do not need to fix them. Indeed, you cannot. Please also remember that addicts are not always bad people. They are often good people mired in a struggle that they want badly to overcome.

But here is what you can do: help them rest. Sit with them. Work with them. Worship with them. Go to movies with them. Eat meals with them. Babysit for them. Find even more creative ways you can help them rest.

Because sometimes, they are just really tired.

Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There!

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is the Exodus story. A story of deliverance; of rescue; of overcoming overwhelming odds. And my favorite part near the climax of that story is what the Israelites are told to do when they are facing certain death: stand still.

That’s it. The army of Pharaoh is bearing down on them, certain to crush them since they are trapped between two mountains and a sea. And Moses says, “All you have to do is stand still.”

Overwhelming fear. Insurmountable odds. Certain death.

Stand still.


I hate being still. I mean, there are some days when I get to veg out in front of the TV or I actually get to sleep in. But as a general rule, I am not still very often. In fact, I love to read and I love to listen to podcasts that others put together, but I don’t do either very often because I have to be still when I do. I feel as if I am being unproductive.

I do not suffer from ADHD (though some would suggest maybe I do), but I do often jump from one activity to the next or one thought to the next. I can be hyper. I can struggle with telling people no. I feel like I must always be doing.

Which is a real problem when something occurs that I can do nothing about:

A sick child.

A broken down car.

A bank fee for a bounced check and the knowledge of five other checks about to clear.

A cancer diagnosis.

A faith struggle.

A question of sexual/gender identity.

A child being bullied.

The Presidential election cycle.

In the face of losing control, my go-to response is do more. Get busy. Work. Find a solution. Apply everything. Go. Go. Go.

And it almost always fails. But the next time I am faced with a similar situation, I certainly am going to do the same thing.

I am nothing if not stubborn.


A long time ago, I was at a summer camp. We were playing kickball. It was fun. At one point during the game, a kid laid his foot on the ball and just launched it—high in the air and deep in the outfield. But the left fielder was there. All he needed to do was put him arms out, take a step or two, and the ball would be right there. Instead, he just stood still. Ball bounced near him. The kicker ran around the bases. Home run.

In a fit of competition-induced anxiety, the coach yelled at him, “Don’t just do something! Stand there!”

Now, it was a mistake. The coach meant to say the more traditional rendering of that cliché. But it was hilarious. It broke all the frustration for the team that gave up a run and allowed everyone on both teams to laugh together.

Little did I know that 30+ years later, that statement would still be with me as one of the wisest, most profound ways to deal with the hard times in life.

Don’t just do something. Stand there.

To be sure, there is time for action. There is time to plan and prepare. But so often, we jump to action first. We need to learn to be still.

What are you facing in your life? Can you be still? Just stand there. Pause. Reflect. Meditate. But don’t just do something. Be okay with standing there.

Rest For My Overactive Mind

“Find rest in God alone.”


I am struggling. I want to be accepted. I want people to like me and support me. I want there to be no conflict. So when I know something is going on that will potentially upset others, I try to figure out what my response will be to their (imagined) reactions.

Because I just can’t live my own life. I have to live my life in such a way that everyone, everywhere, will love me all the time. That’s realistic, right?

I know something you don’t know. And if you knew it, you might be mad at me. You might think you need to fix me. You might look down your nose at me. So let me just keep it to myself.

Do you have any idea how fast my mind can operate? Do you know how many things I can think at one time? My mind is a scary place to be. I am thinking about my problem. I am thinking about everyone’s potential response to my problem. And I am thinking about my response to those potential responses.

Totally normal, right?


I sat on my pastor’s couch and said I am overwhelmed. I cannot even state in words all the thoughts that are swirling in my head. He asks me to consider the trajectory of my life over the next 10 years.

My initial thought is, “Are you kidding? I’m freaking out about the next 10 minutes!”

But my second thought is, “Wow. That just might work.”

Maybe I don’t need to know what everyone thinks or feels about my life. Maybe I don’t need to prepare for others’ reactions.

Maybe I just need to know what God wants me to do with my life.


I seek for rest from my people-pleasing thoughts: Agree with me; Understand me; Accept me.

Why am I seeking something eternal among the temporary?

If I am going to stop focusing on what is in front of me (real and imagined) and start focusing on God’s trajectory, how will I do that?

“Find rest in God alone.”

First, I will find a word. My word is peace. I silently pray, “Peace.” Over and over. Repetitively. Slowly breathing. Calming. Peace.

Second, I listen for God. I listen through memory. What has God done in my life already? What have I read, experienced, felt, worshipped before?

I listen through perception. How is God present in my life right now? What is God doing? How is God acting, moving, this very day?

I listen through silence. Sometimes, I listen and hear nothing. And that is okay. Just like at night when I look in on one of my children or my wife. I watch them sleep. I hear nothing. But it is one of the greatest sounds ever.

Third, I reflect on the written word. I read the Bible. I read my favorite authors. I read (or listen) to sermons I have heard before.

I find rest in God. God will direct my life, not other people. And definitely not myself.

My mind is running.

But God is calling me to rest.

“Find rest in God alone.”