How to Compost Your Failures

This is a guest post by Mary DeMuth. She is an author, speaker and book mentor. She has published twelve books, including her most e-book recent, The 11 Secrets of Getting Published, and her most recent novel, The Muir House. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

I lamented that I’d let weeds take over my flowerbeds. I didn’t have garbage can space, and my composter died in a windstorm, so I was left with a pile of uprooted weeds. They screamed failure to me.

A Compost Pile - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/jml5571, Image #16223881

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/jml5571

That is, until God whispered, “You can compost them right there. They can mulch the dry soil. Provide natural fertilizer.”

I thought about that a moment and realized God was telling me something compelling. In essence He was saying, “Compost your failures.”

Truth: Your failures, whether they’re relational, vocational or ministry-related, are fodder for future growth. They are not wasted. Used properly and with the right perspective they become the very thing your success feeds off.

But how can we compost our failures? Four ways:

  1. Use your situation to exercise your optimism muscle. As Thomas Edison famously said, “I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.” See your failure as an opportunity to change the way you talk to yourself.

    Instead of saying, “I’m a loser” (which is not true), compost the failure by saying, “I’m closer to the next goal” or “At least I know that tact doesn’t work.” For more thoughts on this, read this quick post about killing catastrophic thinking.

  2. See the failure as a holy redirection. Here’s where a healthy view of God’s sovereignty over your life benefits you. Perhaps the failure was God’s way of redirecting your focus.

    In one period of my writing career, I focused quite a bit on marketing techniques, none of which worked for me. Over and over I’d try proven techniques only to fail, fail, fail with absolutely no return-on-investment for the effort. At my lowest point, I realized that if I had performed all the right marketing steps and succeeded, I would’ve taken glory for it.

    Instead, I learned to redirect, to first lay every effort before Jesus, to let Him be the director of my career. My failures resulted in His much needed redirection. Your failure may be a beautiful gift, as it uncovers the idols in your life.

  3. In the failure, be proactive and ask a coach or trusted friend to look at the situation from the outside. You may have a blind spot you’ve not been able to detect, something that’s held you back for years. You may have failed several times in the same way.

    A trusted business coach will be able to ask the right kinds of questions to help you discern what needs to change in your life. If you’re willing to grow beyond your issue, you’ll no longer sabotage your success.

  4. Realize that long-lasting kingdom success comes when God shows up in your weakness. We wrongly think that to be successful in life we must perfect ourselves, walk through all sorts of self-improvement hoops. But the beauty of the gospel is that God’s strength is only made perfect in our weakness. (See 2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

    When we are strong, we push out God. But when we are weak (which is often the case in the midst of failure), God can show up. He can move through us to change lives. He can do the impossible. Remember the old quote, “When God wants to do an impossible task, He takes an impossible person and breaks him.”

Failure is a gateway to new things. It’s the stepping stone to new life. Seen properly and discerned rightly, our failures will be the very things we look back on with affection, thankful for a God who lets dreams die, composts them, then creates wildly beautiful life from their death.

Question: How have you seen God use your failures? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • Dvtomassoni

    Thank you for your “right on post”. For many years starting from when I was a child, I felt I was a failure and damaged goods. In 2004 I cried” God if this is all life is, I don’t want it”, the very next day he sent to me a man of the cloth that most definetly got my attention and my first “God moment”.

    One of the things I learned was embracing my uniqueness and share my failures and rising from the ashes.

  • http://twitter.com/WilliamJSpencer William J Spencer IV

    I am glad God talks to others in the garden also.  Failure can become fun if you view it as an opportunity.

  • Joe

    I like the composting comparison. I have been in farming for over 30 yrs. I drew the same type of comparison with what has been described as “toxic waste” – that would be cow manure. Yes, uncontrolled it is toxic waste. It can pollute streams causing devastation by robbing vital oxygen and propigating micro ogranisims that kill off life.  At first glance we can think of failure as cow dung. It can stink, carry many diseases and pollutants. But controlled and allowed to “cook” and then applied appropriately to a field of seeds can turn death into food for human consumption – when you think about it the results are quite amazing. Like the article, failure can be a pathway to destruction or pathway to life……..we make choices everyday. Guard your mind and speak truth into it. See the picture of life not the picture of death. I have always been blown away to plant a small kernal of corn and then harvest an 18 ft plant within 90 days always with the help of cow dung….how amazing is that and how God has a sense of humor in it all as well.

  • http://www.distractedbyprayer.blogspot.com Shannon @ Distracted by Prayer

    Thanks, Mary.  Knowing a bit of your story, I’m even more impressed with your resilient message.  People of faith often seem the most reluctant to risk because of a fear of failure.  More of us need to read and reread this post! 

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  • http://www.facebook.com/ayomide.akinkugbe Ayomide Akinkugbe

    Oh, How I love this line : “Your failure may be a beautiful gift, as it uncovers the idols in your life.” So true. . . Ruin is a gift!And this line got me smiling real big : “When God wants to do an impossible task, He takes an impossible person and breaks him.”. I already love your heart, Thanks Mary for sharing  :)

  • http://specializingintheimpossible.wordpress.com/ Laura Johnson

    Most of my life when I ‘failed’ somewhere I took it very personally. In my mind my value as a person diminished. Now, I view failure as an opportunity to learn! The greatest people failed multiple times before reaching greatness. If I want to be great…..bring on the failures! ;)

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