What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Galatians 2:19 (MSG)
I Failed – The Failure Series – Part 3
Success and failure become a problem when one of our goals in life is to impress and please others. You might think that you don’t have that desire or issue. But it invades us more than what we realize.
The desire to please people and get a positive response from others, be it a group or an individual, is a pressure for most of us. And look, it’s not always a bad thing. It’s healthy to want to make the people you love happy. But it becomes unhealthy when the sense of who are is derived from how many people you can impress and please, and how often.
Failure is generally felt when we aren’t able to impress someone with our performance or offering. Whether it be a job that wasn’t completed on time or to spec, or whether it be letting someone down emotionally, mentally or physically; missing the mark, or not meeting the expectations of others, defines our sense of failure and success.
And since it's such a personal experience, we tend to take the experience deep within ourselves, to varying degrees, until it becomes, at least for some us, something that we would define ourselves as being.
It becomes the story we tell ourselves:
I failed in this relationship
I failed the project
I failed to meet the expectations of my partner
I failed to stay faithful
I failed to tell the truth
I failed my exam
I failed to get into the college I wanted
I failed my friend, my love, my family…
It’s the reaction we get from people, or the one we assume we will get, that makes us fear failure so much. Perhaps you failed as a child and was disciplined beyond what was responsible. Maybe you failed someone you loved, and that failure hurt them deeply. Maybe you failed at work and lost your job, or lost money, or lost your reputation.
Sometimes failure leads to loss, and I think this could be why we fear failure so much. It can have an impact on those we love.
We also fear failure because we want to be awesome, and we want everyone else to think we’re awesome, too. We mistakenly believe that personal value is found in that space of “being awesome and being known as awesome.”
So, tell me: Are you a failure or a success?
How did that question make you feel? I hope it made you angry. I hope you got confused trying to come up with an answer. I hope you understand just how much of a ridiculous question that is!
You are neither failure OR success.
You are you. Human mixed with Divine breath; Spirit. You experience failure. You experience success. But you are neither of those things.
Change the story. Rewrite the narrative. Stop trying to please people and impress God. It’s not your job.
The better question to ask, the more interesting way to weave your experiences of failure and success into your life's narrative is to ask yourself instead, “How do I move through failure?”
Spiritually or faith that ignores pain, explains it away with platitudes and shallow notions of cause and effect, is not faith at all.
“All great spirituality is about what we do with our pain. If we do not transform our pain, we will transmit it to those around us.” (Richard Rohr.)
Written by Lizzy Milani
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