Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Four-Letter Word

It is a much hated four letter word that begins with the letter F. Many people try to say that this word is not part of their vocabulary. It is usually synonymous with pain and no one likes to experience it. Yet it is a part of life and we all have to deal with it. The word is Fail.

Failure is one of life’s most challenging experiences, and how we react afterwards has a large bearing on what we will become.

Failure can run along a wide range of lines. For many reasons kids fail in school, some because of inadequate preparation, and other times perhaps due to personal handicaps that cause them to get behind and not have the support they need. They are lost in the shuffle, possibly shy, not a fighter for the teacher’s ear, blaming themselves instead of understanding that it could be circumstances set against them.

I knew a girl in college for whom a biology degree was out of reach because she failed chemistry class twice. Her dream went up in smoke, though maybe down the road something good came of it later. The experience was hard, and disheartening.

Failure in the job scene comes in a range of guises. Failure to get the job, failure to succeed in the job and that ultimate indignity of being dismissed from a job, these are just a few painfully harsh experiences. And such failures do an inner work on us that can distort our vision of ourselves. When we most need affirmation, that sting of rejection has an especially harsh edge.

I had an older friend years ago who used to sell real estate in the late sixties. He was the sole breadwinner in his family and the economy had taken a downturn. Selling houses was not easy, so he was under a lot of pressure. He said that women were entering the field who were not breadwinners, who were doing it for social reasons as well as income, but as a second income. The selling situation for them was free and easy, light and breezy. Buyers preferred doing business with these women because of the atmosphere created, as opposed to the repressed anxiety he was unable to conceal. This new variable ultimately resulted in his becoming a failure in real estate sales and he had to change careers.

An article called "Failure", Ode magazine October 2007, details how J.K.Rowling’s early failures became a springboard for her future success. Many other other high profile failures are cited, such as Henry Ford who went bankrupt numerous times before his car company found traction.

Good relationships, whether with friends, lovers or everything in between, can be one of the most rewarding things in life… and also the most painful when things turn. Finding a way to deal with the pain once a relationship falls apart is hard. First off, we do not have a clear picture of what is going on within us at the time. Second, the rejection is such a personal assault on our self esteem.

Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes takes place in a small town where a travelling circus arrives, and its evil is palpable. In one scene the father of one of the main characters goes into the House of Mirrors late in the story and is stuck there, for what he sees are not distortions of himself, but rather images of his life, his failures. He is overcome with regret.

Regret is a great snare. While looking into the chasm that is our past, we must be careful not to become so hypnotized that we become paralyzed like this man in the Hall of Mirrors.

Failure is not an end, but a beginning. And there is no one who has ever achieved great things without at some point along the way coming to grips with it.

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