Failure at Work: Biblical Lessons Learned from 2015 Superbowl’s Russell Wilson

by | Feb 5, 2015

Like 121 million other Americans, I watched the Super Bowl last Sunday night. Along with most football fans, I questioned the goal line pass by the Seahawks at the end of the game, the play that was ultimately their defeat.

It was an ending that will be replayed over and over in the minds of Seahawks coaches and players. The team had worked so hard, had done all the right things, and was so close to what was almost certain success.

But they made a decision and the decision led to failure. The decision was publicly questioned by sports fans everywhere, and I am sure it will haunt the Seahawks for some time.

We have all been there – and we will be there again. We are on the cusp of victory, but we make a call that goes badly. Our roles or failures may not be in front of 120 million people, but we will all have to process failure.

So how do we respond when we fail in our work? Russell Wilson, star quarterback of the Seahawks and the one who threw the game-deciding interception, has something to teach us.

This is Wilson’s twitter feed in the 24 hours following the loss:

The defeat and Wilson’s response frames a crucial concept for our faith at work. To emerge from failure well, we first have to know who we are and then  have to resolve to work hard and get better.

When failure happens we always question our identity. What does this say about who I am? Sometimes we justify what happened and sometimes we try to blame others – in both cases we are trying to tell ourselves that we are really okay. We are trying to be sure of who we are.

Read Wilson’s tweets again. We would expect the last two – those have the kind of resolve that we expect and admire in the best leaders.

But the power is in the first two tweets:

Thank you God for the opportunity…I will never waiver on who He has called me to be…I will love You, O LORD, my strength…

Wilson’s resolve to work hard comes from an assurance of his identity in Christ – he knows that there is no mistake he can make that is big enough to shake his foundation and security in Christ. He is not working hard to prove his identity through his work, but he is working hard out of the security of his identity in Christ.

As Christians in the marketplace, this has to be our model. We must work with excellence and confidence in whatever we do, especially when we are bouncing back from a failure. But we have to remember that our identity – our value – is not defined by marketplace success or failure.

God requires us to work wholeheartedly, and many times excellence and consistency in our work leads to good outcomes. But we are not ultimately judged on the outcomes of our work. We are judged on the outcome of Christ’s work.

And on Christ’s game winning drive, he got it in the end zone.

So what can we learn from this? Here are a few takeaways:

  • Failure is going to happen, and it is a crucial part of our personal and organizational growth.
  • We have to remember the source of our identity in Christ. We get perspective by remembering that we are not ultimate failures because we are ultimately judged (by God) on Christ’s work.
  • With this foundation, we emerge from failure with resolve to get better and win. We work with excellence for the Lord, confident of our identity in Him.
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Ben Kirksey

Ben Kirksey is the Chief Operating Officer for Workmatters. He is a graduate of the University of Arkansas (2006, Economics and Political Science), and alumnus of Teach for America. He realized a passion for integrating faith and work while at Northstar Partnering Group (now Field Agent™) and subsequently co-founded the Workmatters Institute in 2010.