Why is Failure so Sexy?

It seems like every week or so I hear about someone who failed--recovered--and then wrote a book about it. Perhaps their marriage failed. Or they went through a phase as an addict. Or they lost their family because of bad choices. And so they write a book because of the insights they gained along the way. I understand why those books sell. As fallen humans, we identify with other people who talk about their failures in such stark terms. We figure the author has some insight into the human condition--and perhaps we can learn enough to keep ourselves from falling in the same hole. And I agree...we can definitely learn from such people. I recall more than 20 years ago when Gordon MacDonald went through his highly publicized fall--he later said something I'll never forget: "An unguarded strength is a double weakness." He was saying, "Pay attention! I screwed up in an area where I was strong. Don't do the same."

So, yes, those who have fallen and recovered to some level of health have a place to write books and give talks about the pitfalls that should be avoided.

But what about those who were faithful for a lifetime, who never had a public failure, who loved their spouse for decades, who led their family with integrity? Why don't they write books? Probably because no one would buy them. The topic isn't as sexy, is it? You aren't going to hear much dirt or experience the highs and lows of a huge fall.

But I ask...

  • Would you rather get advice from the person who messed up and lost his marriage--or the man who has stood by his wife through ups and downs for 30 or 40 years?
  • Would you rather get parenting advice from the author who tells you all the mistakes they made and how they regret that they traveled so much and didn't spend time with their kids--or from the parent who was just there, day in and day out, loving on and listening to their kids?
  • Would you rather get advice from the speaker who talks about all the bad things she did in her "wild youthful days" including illegal substances and lots of sexual partners--or from the boring girl who studied during college, got married as a virgin, and stayed connected to God and her family?

The answer is not either/or. It's good to learn from both. I just wish there were a way to identify and learn from the people who stayed faithful day after day, year after year. But they don't tend to write books about their success. Probably their humility is part of the reason for their stability.

Who do you know that consistently made good choices? Seek them out and ask them questions. You might actually learn something.

Tim Stevens30 Comments