Failure — Getting It Right After Getting It So Terribly Wrong (2016) – The day began like any other, I sat quietly at the desk in my home office not wasting time looking out the window for daylight was still hours away. The glow from my computer monitor shared the responsibility of lighting up my work area with an old worn out desk lamp. Leaning back in my chair, and holding my coffee cup so close, I inwardly cringed as I hit the computer key that opened the flood gates to allow the frantic pouring in of my usual hundreds of morning emails.
These are the moments coffee was made for, I quietly thought to myself.
The initial glance revealed the usual onslaught of emails asking me to buy this business tool or that latest piece of software, but as my eyes scrolled down the list, they fell upon one subject line, “I’m sorry to bother you…but I don’t know who else to turn to.”
Setting my coffee on the cork hot pad beside my computer, I opened the email.
My name is Sara Jane (not her real name), and I was wondering if you could help me with something. I’ve been in a situation with another person, and I made decisions based on what I thought was accurate information…decisions that hurt the other person deeply and caused them great pains in both the community and in their private world. Now, it appears the information I thought was right back then couldn’t have been more wrong. What do I do? How do I get it right after getting it so wrong?”
Failure — Getting It Right After Getting It So Terribly Wrong
I stared at Sara Jane’s words feeling her pain, inner conflict, and sorrow. I knew her pain well, as most of us do, for we have all been in this position a time or two. I knew her pain for another reason, as I understood from personal experience the pain and suffering of the other party in Sara Jane’s life.
Staring at her words, my heart and soul began to revisit my own painful experiences and the deep sorrow and suffering visited upon me by other people’s ignorant actions (actions taken without fully or accurately understanding the situation).
How do I help Sara Jane in this moment of personal pain? My mind began to wonder as I looked at my library.
Drawing in a slow sip of what was now luke warm coffee, my hands quickly took their traditional place over my computer keyboard.
Coping With Failure — Getting It Right After Getting It So Terribly Wrong
I wish there was some way, in the complexity of this world of ours, that human beings had the ability to take on and carry the pain of others, for it is never easy to see someone hurting as deeply as you are, but know that you are not alone, for I too have known such pain, and even more so, I know the pain the other party has gone through in your life, for I have also been in their shoes.
Relational failures can leave many scars – hurt feelings, wounded or forever broken relationships, wasted or lost potential, broken marriages, and sadly… crushed human spirits. In the depth of this deep inner darkness, when we feel so alone — so unworthy, there is the potential to deepen our spirit, bring healing to the dysfunctions of our character, emerging with a softer heart and deeper life understanding.
As one who has been wounded deeply in life, and paid too great a price at the hands of the abusive behaviours of others, I have walked the path that follows such hardship, and to this day, I still walk that path for it’s something a person never totally recovers from, for emotional and physical scars are a permanent blemish emblazoned upon the soul.
Five Realities We Must Learn To Embrace
Restoring ourselves to a place of life happiness is a journey. To be successful in that journey there are five realities we must learn to embrace:
- No matter how much we wish it was not so, everything in life changes and everything comes to an end. We can’t control this; we can only accept it.
- No matter how hard we try, things don’t always go according to plan.
- While we wish it were otherwise, life is not always fair, and it’s in these moments where most of us struggle with thoughts of revenge, reconciliation, or simply walking away.
- While it may not seem so in the moment, pain is a valuable part of life, for it helps awaken our often self-absorbed lives to the pain of others.
- Finally, and perhaps the saddest reality of the five is the truth that people are not loving and loyal all the time. It’s here in this place where people often struggle by allowing their egos to take over, or instead choosing to walk forward in life with a genuine egoless love for others.
Until we embrace these five realities, it’s difficult to move forward in our failure, our pain, our sorrow, our deep inner agony.
I wish I could tell you the journey ends here, but it doesn’t. If we are going to get through our failures, then we must grow forward recognizing that there is an anatomy to failure.
The Anatomy of Failure
The Crisis Phase
No matter how it arrives – gradually or crashing in around us, when a crisis hits, it hits with all the grace and poise of a sledge hammer. It’s important, in the depths and despair of our crisis phase that we remind ourselves that this is only temporary…the sun will rise again in our circumstance… our season in this crisis phase is not permanent but simply part of a journey in personal growth or personal demise, whichever we choose.
The crisis phase usually includes, and in this order:
- Shock, disbelief, confusion, and numbness as we often begin to question our core beliefs;
- Denial and blame creeps in the back door as we move out of the shock stage, distracting us in every which way from facing the situation head on;
- Withdrawal as our pain and suffering grows heavy within;
- Fear and anger – while both can be very healthy when expressed correctly, if expressed incorrectly we can find ourselves starting the phase all over again returning to shock and disbelief;
- Shame – shame is normal, and we all feel it, but shame can become toxic if we allow it to generate a sense of terminal worthlessness and hopelessness;
- Depression and despair – depression and despair are a normal part of our grieving process and cannot be avoided, we must…for the sake of our own wellbeing, admit to being depressed, embrace it, and feel it if we are going to heal.
The Crossroads Phase
Many of us know the crossroads phase by another term fight or flight.
People who choose the fight response end up staying stuck in blame mode, and it keeps them from growing and learning from the experience in a responsible manner.
People who choose the flight response usually get stuck in a revolving door which opens on one side to shame and opens on the other side to depression.
At some point in this phase, if we have arrived at a healthy place, we throw our hands up in the air and figuratively speaking cry out, “I give up! I can’t do this on my own!” Here in this place we begin to surrender our need to control the outcome.
The Catalyst Phase
Life has a way of throwing us curve balls which force us to change up our game strategy. A catalyst is a “curve ball” — it stimulates a reaction, development, or change.
The catalyst phase carries us forward in life, calling us to be something greater than our circumstance, handing us the opportunity to rise above our anguish.
There are certain realities we often forget, and thus we beat ourselves up needlessly.
In life, everyone is a failure, just as everyone is a success.
Failure is a normal part of our growing process. Failure is not avoidable. Failure is not a destination, it’s simply part of an overall journey. Failure is not the enemy; it is our launching pad to new heights. Failure is not reversible, or erasable, it is little more than a marker on the side of our success journey. Failure is not a stigma; it is a step forward. Failure is not final; it’s the cheer leading team calling you forward to greater things.
Writer: James C. Tanner
Richo, David — The Five Things We Cannot Change…and the Happiness We Find By Embracing Them (2006) Shambhala Publications Inc.
Oliver, Gary Ph.D – How To Get It Right After You’ve Gotten It Wrong (1995) Victor Books
Maxwell, John – Failing Forward … Turning Mistakes Into Stepping Stones For Success (2000) Thomas Nelson Inc.