According to columnist Perry Buffington, a licensed psychologist, failure takes on a life of its own because the brain remembers incomplete tasks or failures longer than successes or completed activities. It’s called the “Zeigarnik effect.” Buffington states, “When a project or a thought is completed, the brain . . . no longer gives the project priority or active working status.
. . . But failures have no closure. The brain continues to spin the memory, trying to come up with ways to fix the mess and move it from active to inactive status.”
Peter failed in many ways, but Jesus fixed the mounting mess of the apostle’s failures and moved his blunders from active to inactive status. Peter failed in at least two ways that people most fear: being powerless in a crisis and awkward in a social setting. In the most important times of his life with Jesus—the Caesarea Philippi scene (Matthew 16:20-23), the transfiguration scene (17:1-4), and the foot-washing scene (John 13:4-10)—Peter said the most inappropriate things. He failed because the deluge of his pride overpowered him, and he attempted to blanket himself in his own strength. At the arrest of Jesus, he collapsed and became a pathetic coward (Matthew 26:69-75). His heart deceived him and he denied his Teacher and Lord. But Jesus gave him a second chance and moved his failure from active to inactive (Mark 16:7; John 21:15-17).
Jesus can move our failure to inactive status when we realize that He’s bigger than our failures and He’s willing to give us another chance. If our failures are the result of sin, then we should confess our sins to God and genuinely repent (1 John 1:9). When we fail, we can and should get up again (Proverbs 24:16). And we should press on in Jesus’ power (Acts 3). —Marvin Williams