How real is your fear of failure?

There are at least two thousand known phobias. From Novercaphobia (fear of your step-mother) to Pogonophobia (fear of beards) to Syngenesophobia ( fear of relatives,) there’s a named fear for nearly everything in our lives.

But for babies there are really only two measured fears – fear of falling and a fear of loud noises. Everything after that point is learned.

After a stint in my crawl space and another in the attic, I found my fear. Stenophobia, a fear of narrow places. Or perhaps it’s Claustrophobia – a fear of confined spaces. I don’t know where I got those fears, but they are real. I remember being locked in the trunk of my mom’s 69 Oldsmobile once, courtesy of a little brother who dared me to jump in. That might have had something to do with it.

I have a few other fears that pop up every once in a while, but the fear of failure is a biggie. And this is a terrible thing for a writer to have. “Will anyone read this. Will they like it? Will it make sense? Am I using the right voice? Am I using too many question marks?” Failure dogs every step of the writer’s life.

Our learned fears come from letting someone down at some point, of not living up to lofty expectations of a coach, a parent, or a teacher. It comes at the hand of imperfect man or woman living in a narrowly defined world of rules and regulations. It comes from letting myself down.

I could name off a half-dozen events in my life that seem to be markers in my mind – failures. The fence fell, the

fear of failuretrain came off the track, the cork blew, or whatever expression you want to use – I let others down. I disappointed God. I failed myself.

But Eric Parks, preaching on failure, said this. “You are not defined by your mistake – or series of mistakes. That’s not who you are in God’s eyes.” According to Eric — and God – the battle for failure is less about reality, and more about perception.

This is isn’t some feel good philosophy. It’s the truth. Satan loves to dig in and whisper in my ear, repeating the same tape in my brain of failures, disappointments, and bombs that I’ve lobbed into my life.

That’s why, every day, I have chance to start again. I have a chance to “be transformed by the renewing of my mind.”

Now, I won’t be a success at everything. I can’t slam dunk a basketball. I can’t start a fire quicker than Bear Gryliss. I can’t grow a Duck Dynasty Beard. But just because I can’t do something well – – or at all – doesn’t make me a failure.

What are you afraid of?


What He Said

Consider these verses:

Philippians 4:8 

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

2 Corinthians 4:16 

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

Ephesians 4:23 

And to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,

Philippians 4:6-7 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Colossians 3:2 

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.


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  • Beautiful truth, David. Love that we can push that restart button everyday.

    • I never knew grace until I needed it. Each day, I need to daily a dose of Vitamin G.

  • Good words David. Sort of like “kick fear to the curb” words and then start all over.

    • Read what I said to Vijesh above. Definitely kicking fear to the curb. “This is your stop – now get out of my car”

  • hisfirefly

    I needed this today David. No, wait… I need this everyday. Thank you

    • It is a day-by-day thing. It seems like on a daily basis I’m reminded of failure — and it’s always put in a subtly different way. Like the kid that came to my door three times last year at Halloween, with only slight modifications to his costume hoping he could get more candy. I was hip to him — and I’m hip to Satan too. Not gonna fall for it.

  • I too feel this fear of getting failure, in fact every alternative day I feel like I have failed or will God really help me get that breakthrough. As you said we need to have a renewal of mind but still something inside says will I be delivered of this fear of failure. Initially i used to have lot of faith but as days are passing by my faith levels too are drooping may be author of faith Lord Jesus has to interfere in my live some what profound or what we say is intimately for me to come out of this situation.

    Thanks for this post David.

    • I can relate to what you said — every other day, it seems that failure climbs in my car with me and and follows me all day. But, at the first stoplight, I reach across, open the door, and tell him that this is his stop.

      Vijesh, I want to encourage you not to give up. Your faith is just fine. It’s the distraction of the past that is getting in the way. Confess it. Admit it. Make things right with others. And then relish the forgiveness that Christ gives.

  • Fear that my life will become small and boring. That the best years are behind me and I’ve got a lot of life ahead of me :)

  • Beautifully said, David. Thank you.

  • I feared that everything I believed about God was wrong – and I was right. If that was the bad news, dealing with the “Good News” is no less challenging. I feared failure – and I failed. I no longer fear it to the degree that I once did because it has happened. I feared that I might not be the man I am supposed to be – until I realized that no man is save God grows him into that shape and stature. I feared offending people with the gospel until I realized that it wasn’t the gospel I was offending with, but my own poor understanding of God’s Word and my inability to communicate it, coupled with a mentality that said “It’s all on you” – I am no longer afraid, nor am I that man.

    We have failed. We will fail. God never fails. I can rest on that knowledge.

    Thanks, David.

  • This is a true and powerful point: “But for babies there are really only two measured fears – fear of falling and a fear of loud noises. Everything after that point is learned.”

    The things we have learned to become afraid of can be overcome by the Word of God and renewing of our mind. Really good passages! With God all things are possible, even moving through our fears.

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  • Floyd

    Hmmm. I did a stint in the trunk of a 69′ Torino… then in the small toolbox, the type that mounted under the flat bed of a 60′ Ford F-100 just behind the cab… I wasn’t a very fast learner… a trait that still haunts me today. But I have learned well that failing at something isn’t like in school. Memorizing something isn’t wisdom and there’s always something to be gained in failing. Without the foundation of failure and learning, there is no wisdom and any type of success without it will lead to a free fall.

    True failure is the act of quitting or giving up and winning isn’t measured by a number, it’s measured over a lifetime.

    Great post… brought back some misplaced memories… and phobias!

    Reading Philippians 4:6-7 instantly brings that supernatural peace from Above.

  • The fear of making mistakes – I could write a book on that – it leaves me with huge fear that I battle with daily. I know now those mistakes aren’t anything to God – He knows the intent of my heart. It’s hard, too, the judgement of our children as they grow up and realize our imperfections – before they fully grasp grace – it can be a hard place to live. Wonderful post – needed that pep talk today!

  • Great post David. I think we need to remind ourselves often that we can’t do everything well, but we can do something well. The Scriptures were great too! Needed to read these today.

    • Good perspective. So glad you found the scriptures good. THis has been a good post for me too. I havent seen your blog before — shoot me a note and we can talk!

  • But for babies there are really only two measured fears – fear of falling and a fear of loud noises. Everything after that point is learned.” So very true and there are some fears we can unlearn if we just continue to face them head on. This is probably one of the best quotes I have read on fear of failure. Good one brother.

  • Man, this is so often what I need to hear. I don’t think it’s so much that we ever defeat our fear of failure really, but moreso that we learn how to get past it. We learn how to battle it with the truth of scripture and we learn to dull ourselves to its sting.