Confessions of a Failure

Craig and I took a Scripture memory class at our church. We learned and meditated on two Bible verses a week, reciting each one every day. At the beginning of each weekly session, our teacher went around the room and asked each to report how many days we had recited. The first week all 20-some of us circled up and echoed each other: 7, 7, 7, 7. Likewise for week 2. Week 3 started the same – 7, 7, 7 – until we hit me. I was the first to proclaim 6. I can still feel the awkward silence and see the teacher write my deficiency on his attendance sheet.

We took that class in 1985, nearly 30 years ago, but I haven’t forgotten the shame I felt for that failure – which now I recognize as too small to even register among my many real failures.

Yet I continue to shame myself. Today it’s for blog failure.

I had convinced Craig that we needed to post a blog at least twice a week to show we were serious, to build up work, to make sure readers found and stayed with us. Last week we only had one. Craig had sent me the image for the second one, the above gondolas overlaid with his notes on the painter John Singer Sargent. I had my idea for the copy, how we packed three important things for our trip to Italy: respect, stamina and curiosity. Our Italian-English dictionary represented respect for our hosts, a willingness to speak their language rather than assume they spoke ours. Our walking shoes represented our stamina, much needed in a country where every road seemed to head uphill. Our map and willingness to ask questions represented our curiosity, which took us to neighborhoods, restaurants and stores far from other tourists. I liked the idea, but every time I tried to write it, I sounded rather pompous.

So I stopped writing.

When I sat down at my computer, I checked email and Twitter instead. I played spider solitaire and free cell. I read the newspaper and finished the crossword puzzle. Thank goodness for the intestinal bug that kept me from finishing off the entire bag of Lay’s chips in the pantry. I delayed further by reading Craig’s new Steven Pressfield book, Turning Pro, about the need to stop being an amateur who talks about what you’ll do and actually become a professional who does it. No matter how hard. The book was so insightful. Pressfield seemed to have written it just for a few friends who came to mind.

Pressfield’s mindset has led to a dozen bestsellers. Mine has led to a dozen blog posts.

I thought blogging with Craig would be fun. I hoped others would appreciate our willingness to collaborate and would identify with our foibles and discoveries. I expected my vignettes to be easy to write, but as I develop my voice, I’m afraid to let people hear me sing off-key. I want to avoid the shame I felt at being the first to fail at my Scripture recitation.

It’s time to recapture the traits that defined Craig and me in Italy: curiosity, respect and stamina. Am I willing to keep exploring and learning, to trust I have something to say, and to persevere in saying it?

I think it’ll only work if I also develop another quality: the grace to let myself fail from time to time.


  1. Enjoying your blog, you two! Keep up the good work.

    • Craig Lueck says:

      Thanks for the encouragements. It seems we are discovering that our stories are much like the stories of others. We are all in the same soup.

  2. Mark and I have a version of this we call “kicking ourselves”. For some reason the idea that someone might see our true selves in a moment of doubt, weakness, failure, pompousness, stumbling, blindness, anxiety, or fear is enough to send us into rapid self correction. “How could I have been so stupid, lazy, vulnerable, naked, (fill in the blank)!” Just like in driving a car, the tendancy is to overcorrect. Even with slight baubles.

    Lee, you wrote through the whole cycle honestly and captured the feelings accurately. Because of your willingness to “go there”, you created a perfectly relateable post! Bravo!

  3. Eric Disney says:

    How about failing every day–heck with this time-to-time stuff. I say this with my head, because my heart knows that with each failure comes that pesky shame and pain that you mention…and believe me, I fail multiple times a day. Maybe I learn and grow through this–I sure hope so, otherwise I would have given up long ago. Isn’t it strange how, like you, Lee, I can fixate on one totally insignificant shortcoming and let it define my personhood WAY out of proportion to all of the “wins”. Why, why, WHY do we do this??? Excellent post…ED

    • Lee Lueck says:

      We’re taught early not to be too full of ourselves (while we receive soccer participation trophies and celebrate graduation from kindergarten!). I want to live where humility and confidence converge, understanding that all I have is a gift while embracing the truth of who I am and what I am capable of doing. Surprisingly, it’s a form of meekness, which in its best sense is not timidity but strength under control.

  4. Beautiful sketch Craig. You nailed this blog Lee.