not our failures.

(First published June 22, 2010)

Simon Johnson, a devotional writer, talks about a spiritual growth plan: “Do all you can to add to your life these things: to your faith add goodness; to your goodness add knowledge” and then goes on through self-control, patience, devotion to God, kindness toward your brothers and sisters, and love. We think, “That is a good outline for growth.”

But then I hear things like this:

  • “I’ll never have that kind of faith.”
  • “Every time I try to do better, I screw up.”
  • “Every time she says that, I lose it.”
  • “I guess I’m just the lost sheep”

What if we actually could grow the way Johnson invites us to? What if we aren’t our failures?

Switch is a book that talks about how to bring about change when change is difficult. (More on Switch here.) As I think about the tension between what Johnson says and what people around me say, my mind keeps coming back to a Switch concept, fixed and growth mindsets. A fixed mindset says, “I am what I am.” A growth mindset says, “I can change, even in fundamental ways.”

Think, for example, about the disciple Peter. As we look at Johnson’s list, Peter lacked self-control, patience, and devotion to God, at least. He probably failed at a couple others as well. A fixed mindset would say, “Poor Peter. What a reject!” A growth mindset would say, “Peter can change. In fact, maybe Peter could even become the kind of person Simon Johnson was describing.”

In fact, Peter was Simon Johnson. Later in his life he wrote two letters full of process words, growth words. He doesn’t assume that his readers have arrived anywhere, nor are they stuck anywhere. He knows that Jesus is gracious even toward friends who betray him, forgiving, allowing to grow.


Simon Johnson’s words are in 2 Peter 1

One thought on “not our failures.

  1. Joseph Ruiz (@SMSJOE)

    Switch is a very powerful book, on the top of my recommend list. I appreciate you Jon, thanks for the word. This morning I forgot about Switch and was stuck in the fixed mindset. Glad God is full of compassion, grace and mercy. By the way I am also grateful for his servants who speak on his behalf. Thanks for this Jon.
    Grace and Peace


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