Failure is compulsory

The waiting, for whatever comes next. The hoping, for that which you dream of. The silence, when it does not appear. The anguish, when the hope starts to fade. The joy, when dreams turn to reality. The peace, when silence is a pleasure.

I’ve wondered why we can be so obsessed with achievement. Whether it is the hunt for money, for status, for a woman to wear on our arms. Whether it is in our family on the monopoly board, among our friends as we embellish to impress, or at work when we drive ourselves crazy to get ahead.

Does our affirmation come from what we achieve, or how others view us? And in the end does it all come down to the same thing? That we are judged by others on our achievements. It could be as simple as whether we are funny. Or if we got through the day at work without knocking over the tea.

But it drives us to distraction. This constant effort to impress. Often impress ourselves above all. To think that we have done something. To not feel like our existence is without meaning.

It distracts us from who we are. We allow ourselves to be defined by what we do well.

Here’s a thought: what if we got a whole lot better at failing?

At getting things gloriously and magnificently wrong. What if we embraced failure with the same enthusiasm with which we greet success? Getting it right can be so tiring, so demanding. The pressure to maintain an aura of invincibility. Yet we still try and pretend that failure doesn’t bother us, we try to shrug it off and move forward. Surely a thorough grappling with failure would not deny the pain that it can cause, the upset, the let downs, the cost.

We’re not to pursue failure out of some martyr complex, but we must address it because, and I hate to break this to you if it is news, but we are going to do it quite a lot.

When it all goes wrong and you want to run away from the world. When no one seems to care that the time you have spent has been wasted. When you summon up the guts to tell a girl you like her, and she turns you down. When the world falls from around your feet.

But not everything that does not go as we planned is a failure. There is pain, there is embarrassment and then there are the adventures in faith we take. The paths we tread even when we know not where they lead, when the outcome is vague, perplexing, daunting. I sometimes wonder if the lives we lead are the instruments of a capricious God, one who toys with us, playing games with our lives. Pushing us down roads that will lead to heartache and disappointment.

Failure is not only about learning lessons. Sometimes there seem none to learn.

Failure is not just about building emotional capacity. Sometimes the pain is too much to bear.

Failure is not the opposite to success. Sometimes it is the only option.

And it’s too often us who judge what success looks like. Perhaps we have a warped take on it all. Perhaps the greatest failures are the greatest achievers. After all, isn’t that written somewhere else?

For a little while I’ve played around with whether utilitarianism is consistent with Christianity (yes, I just brought some philosophy into this). Surely we all want what is best for the greatest number of people.

Except it assumes that we know what is best.

So here’s a thought to end with, is utilitarianism just the philosophy of delusions of grandeur? That we know what is best for the most. And this is worth whatever cost it requires.

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