When we visited the National Air and Space Museum recently, I noticed a tote bag in the gift shop with these words: “Failure is not an option.” Although the quote is attributed to Gene Kranz, the NASA flight director of the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission, he never said it. Actor Ed Harris, who portrayed Kranz in the Apollo 13 film, does use the line and Kranz himself adopted it for his autobiography.
The phrase itself is a great motivator but in reality we must admit that failure is always an option in any endeavor that involves risk or creativity. Failure is part of life. Someone said, “The saddest thing in the world is not to fail but not to have tried.” If we risk greatly, there is always the chance that we will fail . . . and that’s all right. It is in failing that we learn and grow.
The failure of the Apollo 13 space craft created the opportunity for success in finding ways to adapt existing hardware and systems onboard the space craft to save the crew. Kranz and his team were challenged to new levels of creativity and improvisation in order to keep the three-man crew alive and return them safely to earth. They brought success out of failure.
Failure is always a possibility; the important thing is what we do with it. If we do not learn from our mistakes, then failure is inevitable, but we have the opportunity to learn and grow with each failure.
From a Christian perspective, it is not a sin to fail. The sin is not learning from failure. We can be grateful that our God is the God of second chances. No matter how far we fall, God picks us up.