I remember the first time I taught a lesson to a group. As an introvert who wasn’t very confident in front of other people, nothing was scarier to me than teaching a lesson or giving a presentation. That first lesson I gave wasn’t a good lesson. In fact, it bombed. All of my fears came true — I feared failure in front of a group, and those fears became a reality.
After that experience, I worked to build my confidence in front of others. I told myself, “If I just pretend I’m confident, maybe I will appear that way.” Eventually, I wasn’t pretending.
One experience more than any other helped me gain the skills necessary to teach and present in front of a group. About 15 years ago, I decided to volunteer as a docent once a week at the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City.
Being a docent required weeks of training on understanding the museum exhibits and how to effectively give tours to groups. Those years when as a docent provided many opportunities to increase my skills, and eventually, I was able to stand in front of a group without being nervous and to present in an effective manner.
Have you ever had a weakness that required a lot of work to overcome? Or have you ever been afraid of trying something new because you were afraid of failure? In a recent speech titled, “Until Seventy Times Seven,” Lynn Robbins gave some insights on failure. He had a college professor who taught him “to consider failure as a tutor, not as a tragedy, and to not fear failure but to learn from it.”
To overcome our weaknesses, we must learn to fail in a productive way; there is an art to failure. While that sounds counterintuitive because we tend to avoid failure at all costs, sometimes we need to embrace failure so we can improve. If we always avoided things we weren’t good at, we would never progress or become better people.
Embracing failure requires patience and humility. We need to forget about what others think and embrace that weakness, which sometimes requires allowing others to know what that weakness is.
In the Bible, Isaiah mentioned that revelation comes line upon line, and the same is true of our own skills. Little by little, as we work to improve (and likely fail many times in the process), we will see progress until one day we will realize that what was once a weakness has become a strength.
Slowly improving through hard, tedious work can sound daunting. Luckily, we’re not alone in these endeavors. In our sincere efforts to make our weaknesses into strengths, Christ is with us. He has said, “I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.”
Suddenly, knowing we have heavenly help gives us confidence to move forward. Jesus gives us the strength to try again when we stumble. He leads us as we work to improve so our efforts will lead to eventual success. And eventually, we won’t have to pretend; our weaknesses will become our strengths.