DCL 5.2 Instruction | Accepting Responsibility for Failures

In this DCL module, the sessions presented by Tom Atema do not entirely follow the notes.  Tom decided to share on the subject of ‘Failing Forward’ from his own experience. The video has been included in full to use at your discretion.

Video Presentation: Tom Atema, VP of International Ministries and Strategic Partnerships, EQUIP


Please do not forget that everyone makes mistakes. From time to time, we will mess up. Many people make mistakes but refuse to admit them. They tend to see every obstacle or error as somebody else’s fault. As a result, they generally respond in one or more of the following ways:

1.  They overreact with a display of anger. (Blow up)

2.  They try to hide their failure. (Cover up)

3.  They work harder and faster, but without making changes. (Speed up)

4.  They try to excuse their mistake. (Back up)

5.  They quit. (Give up)

To fail forward, a person must first utter three of the most difficult words to say, “I was wrong.” He must admit his mistake and accept full responsibility for his current wrong actions and attitudes. He must see every failure as a fork in the road – an opportunity to take the right action, learn from the mistake, and begin again. Don’t waste energy trying to cover up failure. Learn from your failures and go on to the next challenge. It’s okay to fail. If you’re not failing, you’re not growing.

Leadership expert, Peter Drucker, wrote: “The better a man is, the more mistakes he will make, for the more new things he will try. I would never promote to a top-level job a man who was not making mistakes…oth­erwise he is sure to be mediocre.” Mistakes really do pave the road to achievement.


Biblical Case Study: King David (1 Chronicles 21:1-28)

Following a major victory over the Philistines, King David made a serious mistake with devastating con­sequences. David decided to count the number of soldiers under his command, indicating that he placed greater confidence in his army than in the power of God.

God was very displeased with David’s actions and moved swiftly to punish Israel. David cried out to God, “I have sinned greatly, because I have done this thing; but now, I pray, take away the iniquity of Your ser­vant, for I have done very foolishly.” (v.8) God sent a plague upon the nation and thousands died. David prayed again, “I am the one who has sinned and done evil indeed…let Your hand be against me…but not against Your people that they should be plagued.” (v.17)

  • David refused to blame others for his foolish decision.
  • David admitted his failure.
  • David accepted full responsibility for his actions.
  • David repented and moved forward.
  • David worshipped the Lord.
  • David renewed his commitment to the Lord.

David took a step that is essential to learning from mistakes and failing forward. David accepted respon­sibility for his failure. Until a person takes this step, all other steps on the pathway of achievement will be impossible.




Take a hard look at a recent failure that you have considered not to be your fault. Search honestly for any part of the fail­ure for which you should accept respon­sibility.


 Admit your role in the failure and ask God to show you how you can learn from it.


Review of Lessons 1 and 2: Steps to Failing Forward

1.  Realise there is one major difference between average people and achieving people.

2.  Learn a new definition for failure.

3.  Remove the “you” from failure.

4.  Take action and reduce your fear of failure.

5.  Change your response to failure by ac­cepting responsibility.

DCL Meditation and Inspiration Media and Notes © Willow Creek Association.
DCL Instruction Media and Notes © EQUIP Million Leaders Mandate Volume 2