As we read a book for our Innovation Program, I (Jeff) was shocked by a truly ugly reflection. It started with a discussion of the healthcare system’s culture of evading blame and covering up mistakes. The author of Black Box Thinking writes, “In health care, competence is often equated with clinical perfection. Making mistakes is considered to demonstrate ineptness. The very idea of failing is threatening.” I could sympathize. I mean who wants to go to a doctor who has accidentally amputated the wrong limb? Then it got a little too close to home…
“Society, as a whole, has a deeply contradictory attitude to failure. Even as we find excuses for our own failings, we are quick to blame others for the same mistakes. We have a deep instinct to find scapegoats. It destroys the vital information we need in order to learn. Studies have shown we are often so worried about failing that we will create vague goals so that nobody can point the finger if we don’t achieve them. This represents the essential anatomy of failure-denial. Self-justification, allied to a wider cultural allergy to failure, morphs into an almost insurmountable barrier to progress.”
I’m afraid of looking bad. I’ve spent a lifetime afraid that I am incompetent, and working very hard to ensure myself and everyone else that “I didn’t screw up” or “it wasn’t my fault.” I want to hide my sin under fig leaves and want to believe I have earned God’s love, but that’s not what God says (1 John 1:8-9).
The world doesn’t need another pretend perfect person. Every human being longs to be known and loved as we truly are. To be unconditionally loved in a conditional world. This is the beautiful answer of the gospel: that, as Tim Keller says, “we are more sinful than we dared believe, yet we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” This message rings truest when authentically, sincerely, genuinely shared through flawed and imperfect people (2 Cor 4:7). Nobody will see Christ in me while I am engaged in image management, so I want to work toward Paul’s example & boast about my weaknesses so the power of Christ can work through me (2 Cor 12:9-10).