Learning to Fail Forward

I admire (maybe even envy) people who aren’t afraid to fail. You know, those people who see personal setbacks as just another goal to conquer. People who don’t even consider defeat when they blow it.

I wish I was that kind of person. But honestly, I am not so crazy about failure.

Failure is painful. It’s embarrassing. And sometimes (many times) it makes me want to give up, mainly on myself.

God is teaching me a lot about failing. God is giving me a little push these days – to fail forward.

This week He’s been challenging me to determine in my heart and mind that I am a work in progress and move forward even when I have a setback. Reminding me that I am a woman who is becoming all He created her to be.

A woman who is growing.

A woman who is getting better and better each day.

A woman who is not perfect – but trying to perfect her surrender to God’s plans and power at work in her.

Failing forward…after I shoot harsh words across the room when my child announces that the only yogurt in the empty refrigerator has an old expiration date and there is nothing to eat now. (The large yogurt container on which I had blacked out the date with a permanent marker so his brother would eat the yogurt that had just been opened for the first time and was perfectly fine.)

Failing forward…after I criticize my husband and realize I have failed to honor my man – again. Instead I’ve added to an already stressful day for the husband and father who just brought home groceries.

Failing forward…after I don’t take the time to encourage, to sit, talk and listen to my always-giving-and- forgiving-mom who stopped by, because I was busy doing something.

Failing forward… after I tell God again that writing a book is too stinkin’ hard so I can’t do it because surely I don’t have what it takes.

Every time I fail to be the woman God calls me to be, or the woman I expect myself to be, God reminds me of the progress we’ve made. Because, even though I may not be who I want to be, I am not who I used to be!

And I get that much closer to who I am meant to be – every time I fail forward.

About Renee

Renee Swope is a Word-lover, story-teller, heart-encourager and grace-needer. She's also a wife, mom, friend, daughter and author of A Confident Heart, a Retailers Choice Award winning book that became a best-seller and has been published in six languages, with over 150,000 copies sold. Renee is speaks around the country at women's events and and serves on the writing team for DaySpring’s inCourage blog. For twenty years, Renee served in leadership at Proverbs 31 Ministries and as former co-host of the ministry's radio program, “Everyday Life with Lysa & Renee.


  1. “I may not be who I want to be, I am not who I used to be.” These words jumped up to me.

    Oh..these words you have shared are so me now. I AM a new work in progress and so many times feel Satan trying to pull me back down. Sometimes I think this is too stinking hard and am ready to give in again. Then I read this and get the reminder “I am NOT what I use to be”. I see in me the kind of woman I want to be. I am learning I will have set backs but if I continue to reach for His hand, I can get right back up.

    Thank you for sharing from your heart and encouraging me to fail forward.

  2. Renee,

    One of the things that blesses me about you is your ability to be real. I use your words a lot. Mine have just a bit of a twist.

    I am not where I need to be,
    Not where I want to me,
    But thank you Lord, because I am not where I use to be.

    Moment by moment, day by day.


  3. I love this, thanks for being so honest in your words. I think we all need to learn it is o.k. to fail forward.

  4. This is me – ALL THE TIME! Now, when I get really stressed about messing up again, I picture myself walking through a construction zone carrying orange traffic cones that are strapped to my body with a suspender-like apparatus. It always makes me laugh and reminds me of what you said in Goldsboro – we’re works in progress and God made us this way for a reason!

  5. A good reminder for all of us! Failure is just a part of the process.


  6. It is ok to fail. Thanks for reminding me of that. I really blew it today with my husband AND my kids. Used to i would feel justified in my outbursts, now i feel bad and I ask for forgiveness and tell them I am sorry….not where I need to be, but not where I used to be either. We have to remember God grows us when we are in the valley, not when we are on top of the mountain.

  7. Oh how humbling to know that we are forgiven each time we fail and that we can pick up and start again just where we are. Leaning on God’s strength and not our own.

  8. “I may not be who I want to be, I am not who I used to be! And I get that much closer to who I am meant to be – every time I fail forward.”

    Great thought my friend. I think of the old adage, “It’s better to have tried and failed, then never to have tried at all.”

    Failure is so hard, yet it’s also mandatory for growth. Thomas John Watson Sr. said that the formula for success is really simple – double your rate of failure. Winston Churchill said, “Success is going from failure to failure without a loss of enthusiam.” Denis Watley said, “Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”

    I love the idea of ‘failing forward’. We must never let the sense of past failure defeat our next step.

    Stepping forward,

  9. Thank you for this post. I have failed forward many times this week as a parent. I am grateful for the reminder that I am growing into a better person each day.

  10. So powerful, Renee.

    I love this whole idea of “failing forward”. What a great way of thinking about it.

    Have a great Thursday 🙂

    Failing forward right along with you,
    Kate 🙂

  11. Great post!! I needed that today. I just finished posting about what I failure I felt like dealing with one of my children’s problems last night. It’s so good to find a place of encouragement that we all sometimes fall but we need to keep moving forward.

  12. Thank you for being honest. I have to remind myself that it I do not ever fail.. I can never grow spiritually.
    I’m a work in progress for the Lord.

    I so appreciate you encouraging us to fail forward!

  13. You are always such an encouragement to me. Even, or maybe especially in your authentic sharing of your stumblings.

    Hugs to you, mny friend!

  14. Thank you so much for this encouragement. Your words really struck me this morning. I definitely needed to hear them. Blessings, SusanD

  15. Wow this is so me it is like you are in my head and know what I am goi ng through. Please be encouraged to write your book. God’s got a blessing for you in this.

  16. What a great way to look at it. I’ve got the failing part down…here’s looking to “failing forward” instead of staying where I am in the midst of it!

  17. Amen and Amen. Thank you for your heart felt writings, they are inspiring to a lessor woman trying to follow her savior every day.

  18. Renee–You are really speaking to my heart this week. Really. Really. Really. I can’t even hardly type because the tears are falling. falling. falling.

    Thanks, friend.

  19. Thank you so much, Renee, for the words of encouragement and hope. I appreciate the fact that you are so open and "real." There's something so refreshing and encouraging about knowing that I'm not alone in my struggles. I, like you, am not where I want to be, but I'm not where I use to be either. I like the way you put it "fail forward." What a concept! It's so easy to get caught up in looking back…instead of UP(to Jesus)and forward!

    I love this quote from Bob Sorge, "God is your greatest fan. As your heavenly Father, He is consistently coaxing you forward into the heights of spiritual victory."


    I am soooo looking forward to meeting you at the Rise & Shine Women's Retreat in Iowa in October.

    Thank you again for sharing.

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