Fail to be Great

April 5, 2012 - 5:00 am

“I have sinned against the Lord.” — 2 Samuel 12:13

What defines greatness? When we think of great individuals, we think of those who have accomplished many things in their lifetimes and succeeded in reaching their goals. Greatness is mastery and flawlessness. According to our Scriptures, however, greatness is defined by failure.


That’s right. The words that transformed King David into one of the greatest men of all time are the words “I have sinned against the Lord.” In other words, “I seriously messed up.” This was the response given to the prophet Nathan who had come to explain to the king that he had done something wrong when he took a beautiful woman named Bathsheba to be his wife.

Bathsheba was married at the time, and while King David did not exactly kill her husband Uriah, he did have Bathsheba’s husband sent to the front lines of battle and that was the end of Uriah. So King David’s greatest and defining moment is the minute that he realizes that he has failed and the confession he voices a split second later. Jewish tradition teaches that it was his ability to admit his mistake that made King David worthy of everlasting kingship.

Everyone makes mistakes, but our mishaps are not what define us. It is our response to our lowest moments that transform us into better or lesser beings. If we own up to our mistakes and take responsibility for them, we can learn from them. Ironically, our failures can end up our greatest catalysts for positive growth.

Take Thomas Edison, for example. He failed 1,000 times before he successfully invented the life-changing light bulb. When asked how he felt about failing 1,000 times, Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention that had 1,001 steps.” Greatness is born out of failure. More specifically, mistakes provide us with the opportunity to become great. The choice is ours.

How would your relationships be different if every time you wronged someone you owned up to it? Three little words —“I was wrong”— are the best gift that you can give to anyone. And as we learn from King David, it may just be the greatest gift that you can give yourself.


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