How to Handle Failure

October 21, 2015 | by: Angela Karum | 1 Comments

Posted in: Identity

I am not a runner.

Physical stamina is not one of my strengths. The last time I ran a mile was in high school for PE and I almost fainted (due to undiagnosed anemia). But I considered myself a realist and accepted my limitations.

Until recently.

My life coach invited me to train for a half-marathon. The very idea terrified me. But she challenged me to set a huge physical goal for myself and start examining all the reasons why I believed I couldn’t accomplish it. So in 2012, I signed up for the Lighthouse Loop Half Marathon, bought a pair of running shoes and a notebook and wrote a list describing my physical identity:

  • I am not a runner.
  • I’ve never been a runner.
  • I’m out of shape.
  • I’m not athletic.
  • I have no stamina.
  • I’m the last person chosen on the team.

The list went on – all the things I believed about my body, my physical strength, my athleticism (or the lack thereof). I filled an entire page describing my physical identity. There was nothing positive on the list, nothing but failure. I was shocked and saddened to see my deeply rooted beliefs about myself written out in black and white.

We don’t realize how much we let failure shape how we see ourselves.

Failure is a part of life. We don’t accomplish what we wanted. Things don’t work out. Circumstances outside of our control can derail our plans, despite our best efforts. Failure is an opportunity to grow, to learn, to regroup and try it a different way, to build stamina and endurance. But many times we turn failure into an identity.

  • My marriage failed, so I’m bad at relationships.
  • I lost my job, so I’m a bad provider.
  • I failed the class, so I’m dumb and stupid.
  • I yelled at my kids, so I’m a bad parent.
  • My business went bankrupt, so I don’t have what it takes to be an entrepreneur.

We let the pain of failure settle into our hearts, we lose hope, we give up. But there is a better way.

My coach challenged my resignation and deep-seated acceptance of failure, and I took the opportunity to get rid of it. After I finished that list, I read it out loud and told God I was letting go of that old identity. I asked Him to show me how He sees me….and wrote a new list. The only one who has the authority to define me is the Lord. His words of truth give hope, encouragement, healing, joy and strength.

“The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary, and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall. But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:28-31

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phil 4:13

What is your old failure identity? Is it time to let that go and ask God for a new identity?

As for me, I’m a runner. I do half marathons. I finished my second one in March and will be running my third the end of October.

Come run with me.



Angela Karum, mother of two teenagers and Florida resident since 2008, fills her free time hunting treasures in used book stores and sipping Nutella lattes with friends. Her compassionate heart and ready smile belie an adventurous spirit cultivated during her childhood in the Amazon jungle.



Nov 9, 2015

Great post, Angela, great encouragement to me, as the exercise pad sits next to the easy chair, waiting for me to make use of it.


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