Dude, You Can’t Fail!

My e-mail inbox is peppered with requests from Jesuit advocates on a variety of issues, often asking for me to take action. Ignatian spirituality promotes “faith that does justice.” We are formed to be contemplatives in action. Our regular prayerful conversation with Christ and meditation on his life is the motivation for our action and opens our eyes to Christ’s presence in our daily activity. And yet so many times I find myself thinking, What’s the use?; Ugh, the deck is so stacked against this!; or shamefully, My little voice isn’t going to make any difference.But what if we couldn’t fail? What if absolutely everything we fought for or worked to change, in service to the greater glory of God (AMDG), did indeed come to pass? What if it were guaranteed to come to pass, and your little action or your lifelong dedication is what ultimately made the difference?

In the Ignatian world, I think this is what faith is all about—having the voice of God in your ear whispering, “Dude, you can’t fail! I got your back!” and somehow knowing that whatever counter-cultural activity we are about to undertake in the name of justice or service to another, we aren’t alone. We have a power on our side that is beyond any human decks that could be stacked against us. We are not only going to be O.K., but we and the world will ultimately be better for the actions we take.

Not failing does not mean it won’t be hard or we will get our way, or even that we will succeed as the world defines success. To Rutilio Grande, SJ, Oscar Romero, the UCA martyrs, and more recently to the 26 pastoral workers who died just last year as a direct result of their witness to Christ, not failing still meant they made the ultimate sacrifice and lost their lives. But they didn’t fail. Far from it. The causes and people to which they dedicated their lives are now carried on and companioned by thousands more who are inspired and honored to follow in their footsteps.

Perhaps the next time you find yourself in the midst of discernment, and you recognize a fear of failure or your own insecurity to be the biggest obstacle in your path, listen for that Voice whispering in your ear: “Dude, you can’t fail. I got your back.” Chances are, if you truly believe that, there is nothing that could get in your way again.

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Lisa Kelly
Lisa Kelly is a wife, mother, and Ignatian Associate living in Omaha, Nebraska. She works to help organizations integrate spirituality into their planning and systems. She and her husband, Tom, completed the 19th Annotation in 2005, just prior to spending two years living in the Dominican Republic with their three young children, supporting the work of the Jesuit Institute for Latin American Concern. Additionally they have lived in El Salvador and Bolivia for extended periods.


  1. This heartened me. I’m involved in advocating for social protection and justice for an almost invisible community.There is no clear perspective of success and no time frame. I am often very tired and sometimes tempted to abandon the attempt. Then I remember why we are doing this – because it is the right and reasonable thing to do. Because injustice must be defined and if we do not do it I do not know who will. Your writing reminded me we are not alone.

  2. So grateful for all the feedback and mostly to Loyola Press for sharing all the great blogs every day here without fail! And Sue, I agree, it would be “Dudette” as well, though my Voice knows I respond to many personal salutations including “Lady!” “Babe” “Man” or the ever gender neutral “Hey You!”

  3. Lisa, Thank You for your post. This is the 1st time I have visited this website and your sentiments struck a chord in my day I recognized but couldn’t identify. I look forward to integrating this website into my “Internet-Lifestyle”.

  4. Very insightful. Posted on Twitter and you should have a way for us to post when we consider it to be of value in spiritual growth.

  5. Lisa,
    This was a great little post. Thank you for taking to time to pen something this penetratingly good. Your post came at just the right time. The scripture readings today and this post are a great way to start the day.
    Thank you


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