Thursday, February 4, 2016

Failing Forward

Fail Forward! Have you ever heard those words?

Those words make me cringe. When I hear them, I always imagine myself tripping up the stairs in front of important people at a Black Tie affair, breaking my shoes, ripping my dress, tripping the host—that kind of thing. Going forward, yes. Even going up. But it is not pretty.

Who wants that kind of embarrassment? It would take days to get past the humiliation of the fall before you even began dealing with the I’m-a-loser mentality that inevitably comes along with the failure. And have you noticed that the I’m-a-loser mentality is a mental magnet. The moment you ponder one failure, the rest come rushing at you! It can go something like this:

I forgot the grocery list, so I came home without buying toilet paper.
I also forgot to buy Valentines for my kids’ classrooms.
I didn’t work out.
I ate a donut five donuts.
I forgot to pay that credit card bill from Christmas for presents everyone has already forgotten.
I haven’t taken down Christmas and it’s Valentine’s Day.
I burned dinner.
My hungry, Valentine-less children hate me.
I am Valentine-less, too.
I ate six donuts.
I’m going to die alone. And fat.
I am going to die and I haven’t yet made my will.
And I haven’t saved for retirement.
So there is nothing to will to anyone anyway.
I have to pee and there’s no toilet paper. 
I have failed at life.

See what I mean?

A wise man (AKA, my father, the wisest man I know) sees failure differently. He says that failure is the common thread to learning and knowledge. Failure to recognize failure is the common thread of fools. Failure is the first step to beginning again. The opportunity to begin again is one of God’s gifts. He says he knows this because of the number of opportunities available. A new year, a new month, a new week, a new day, a new hour, a new minute.

If failing, the opportunity to begin again, is one of God’s gifts, who am I to want or expect something different? Even if the opportunity comes with embarrassment and humiliation? If you think about it, who wouldn’t want the opportunity to begin again? I mean, if you got it right the first time, beginning again allows you to repeat the joy of a successful experience. If you got it wrong, of course you want a do-over!

So what if your kids assuage their hunger with half a dozen donuts and you spend the last of their tiny inheritance on delivery pizza. So what if they were the only kids that year with homemade Valentines. And so what if you discover that too much aloe-infused Kleenex can clog a toilet? The next day is a do-over. The next week. The next month. The next year.

God is good. Life is good. And so, it seems, is failure.

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