That taboo subject. Fail. You failed. You’re a failure. Looser.
It hurts, doesn’t it? Cuts deep. In a society addicted to success, failure is shaming. Shaming separates us from the tribe. We feel so completely and utterly alone. The pariah.
We question our worth in the world. We question our capacity, our ability.
It can be sort of OK if we fail once, but when failure feels like a habit, it is very hard to turn it into something that shines any light.
I was listening to the magnificent storyteller Clarissa Pinkola Estes this morning, and she said we must practice resurrection.
Practice picking ourselves up from the floor after we have been knocked down yet again. This is the very spirit that we admire in others who do so.
We love the stories of resurrection, of Abe Lincoln and his constancy of purpose to win office. Of Thomas Edison. Of Nelson Mandela. We love these stories because they give us hope that we too, one day may rise to the shiny towers of success. That we may be able to hold our nerve, hold our personal belief, even when we are in the thickest time of night.
But when we are there, when failure is sitting on us, stinging our flesh with a thousand barbs, to hold true to the light takes remarkable resolve, courage, endurance, commitment, love. The only people that truly know the journey are those who have been through it and made it to the other side.
But when we are deep in it…we must call on all means of support. Friends, family….the seen and unseen, alive or past. What would Abe have done? What would Nelson do? What would Steve Jobs do?
We all have the knowing of how to do this deep in our bones. If we did not we would not have gotten up and walked that first time. A child does not think that falling down is failure. They only think of trying again. And then again. They only see the prize. Ah for the innocence of childhood. For the refusal to measure ourselves against the path of another. Johny started walking 3 weeks before me. And Paul, and Mary. What is wrong with me? It’s too hard. I think I will quit now! Enough with this walking gig. It’s too hard.
Failure either breaks us or makes us. If we examine failure it is, at its essence, almost completely a lie. Failure compared with what? To whom and to what do we give our authority? I can only say I failed if I didn’t give my everything to the effort at the time, or didn’t learn the lesson.
That is really it…each night can I look myself in the eyes and say I gave my all, I left no stone unturned. And tomorrow I have a chance to get up again, and go once more into the fray.
Hard….hell yes. But only through immense heat is steel forged.