Tuesday, April 01, 2008
Beauty in Failure
This has been a busy season for me. I have a large family. I’m part of a group of tribes for which I feel responsible, and which require much of my organizational oversight. Honestly, this is a season of soul-jarring circumstance. I’m also easily distracted. I’ve needed to process badly, but had precious little time to reflect without feeling the pressure of running after the next screaming voice in my head.
Seasons…sitting at Starbucks lusting for my motorcycle, when my son just text me on his way to work and said, “Watch for ice! It’s crazy out here!” It’s April for crying out loud! And winter is still hanging around! Yesterday was Opening Day for the Mariners, and its 32 degrees outside! Some seasons just suck! They seem to stay too long and return too soon. Seasons are unpredictable even for well paid meteorologists on KOMO. Spring, get down here! Apparently, something has to come into alignment above me before Ms. Winter goes away for another year.
Maybe this is a metaphor for how life seems to work. I long for another season, but something has to align above me before this particular “winter” goes away. Something has to change above me. I’m starting to see that change only happens when lessons are learned and choices are made.
Looking in my own rearview mirror, I see that very little actually changed until I learned certain lessons I needed for the next “season.” I need to learn to embrace the beauty in failure. I want to succeed. I love to succeed! But I learn almost nothing through success. I enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done, people served, and progress made. But I learn the most lasting lessons through failure. Really, ask yourself what you’ve learned though success? Ask yourself, “When I was successful at … or in … what did I REALLY learn from it?” For me, satisfaction is a gift; pain a mentor. Pleasure is a blessing, but not a teacher.
Now maybe I’m a sicko, but there is beauty in failure because it takes me back to humility. It shows my brokenness. Failure exposes the weakness in my character, shows me that my insight is dim, and displays my shallow wisdom. Failure asks me for reflection and requires my feedback. Failure demands evaluation. Failure is patient for a response.
We look for the beauty in life, as we should. We long for the blessings of life, as we should. But if we’re honest, we must also face the brokenness of life. I have to grapple with the lessons of failure. If we care to open it, history shows that most leaders became effective only after some great failure from which they recovered and from there, discovered how to succeed. Success is good. Achievement can be advantageous. But to get there, failure may be the best teacher.
I have a good friend who has experienced much pain in life - much from others and some from his own reactions and poor choices. The good news is that he’s very tenacious. He’s learning much and deciding not to give up. In some ways his progress is heroic. He’s not afraid of pain. He’s afraid he won’t learn what he needs to through his pain. I’ve watched him, and walked with him for the last ten years. We’ve decided that there is good pain and bad pain. Good pain is when a person squeezes all the truth out of pain so he or she doesn’t have to continually experience it. Bad pain is when pain continually comes, yet I still refuse to change. That kind of pain - to change the lyrics of a song slightly - is like “living in last night’s nightmare.” That’s a dark season.
A mentor of mine used to remind me from time to time, that “nothing changes until something changes.” And about the time I was ready to say, “DUH!” He continued… “Nothing changes until something changes, and nothing changes until a decision is made.” I’m tired of this particular winter season. Something’s got to change above me. I’ll be back … I’ve got some decisions to make.