Failure. It’s a word that I’ve run from my whole life. I’ve done everything that I could to avoid failing. I learned very early in life that if I failed, then I would be mercilessly mocked and tormented and shamed by my father. Failure was not acceptable to him. And he made sure that I knew that.
By the time I was a young adult, I had created a perspective on life that did not allow me to fail or to admit failure even when I did fail. In my self-protecting arrogance at that time, I did not realize how painful my perspective was for me and for anyone else in my life. My fear of failure also insulated me from being in authentic relationship, because it never allowed me to admit weakness or that I needed help with anything, ever. That fear of was another one that I learned from my father. He refused to ever ask for help, even when he clearly needed it. And so, that’s what I did because it’s what I was taught.
It’s heartbreaking to sit here and think about these things, to remember how I used to be and how my father still is. It’s terribly sad because I can see more clearly now the truth of those fears and how they impacted my soul. My pride and arrogance were not the shiny, strong, powerful things that I believed they were. They were actually horrible, dark, lonely and scary places to exist in. The truth is that there is no love in fear. And living from fear and in arrogance is a loveless existence void of any soul connection.
It’s like wandering around aimlessly in an endless desert with no shade, no company and no relief from the scorching heat of shame. In such a place, no water of love is allowed to refresh and restore life. And even if water began to percolate up through the parched ground, I would have run from such a foreign substance, fearing that it meant to kill me rather than save me. The lie of shame and the fear of failure is that I am fundamentally bad and unworthy of love, acceptance, kindness, mercy, or anything good. So, the lie keeps me from receiving the very things that I desperately need in order to survive, to live, to thrive.
For decades, I wandered in this desert searching for a way out, for something to relieve my suffering. I kept looking outside of me for relief, for guidance, for the answer to my problem. It wasn’t until I decided that I could no longer live for others, that I stumbled upon the road out of the desert. In May of 2017, I took a leap without looking to see if there was even a net to catch me. I was sick of working in a job that was unfulfilling and where I was not valued or acknowledged. So, one day I decided to quit. I had no other job lined up, not even any prospects, and barely any contacts.
I thought at the time that I would find another job in a month or so. But as it turned out, the Lord had other plans for me. And I needed a lot more than a month to journey out of the desert. I spent a year seeking rest in the Lord, learning to lean on Him in new ways. It was challenging to say the least for someone like me who had based her identity on what she did, on achievement and performance. It felt like my world had slowly disintegrated from underneath my feet and I was falling into a foggy abyss of I-don’t-even-know-what.
I had to learn a new way of being, of partnering with the Lord, of walking through life. I had to figure out who I was without the mask of achievement to hide my insecurity and my deeply hidden true identity. I was angry that I had to go through all this. AND, at my age. Somehow, I believed that at forty-three a person should have her life figured out and know exactly who she is and be doing exactly what God designed her to do. I can see now that I had put an enormous burden on myself, especially considering all the horrific abuse that I’ve lived through. I needed time to rest and heal from what I’ve been through. And I needed to learn to accept myself as I am – imperfect, making mistakes, failing, needing help and other people, in process and becoming who I was created to be.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that for much of my life I have failed to admit that I fail, and I have failed to see the benefit of failing. I have blinded myself to my weakness and faults and thus failed to ask for help in areas where I needed help because I suck at certain things. It’s a process, me learning to admit all this.
I’m learning to let go of the fear of failure and acknowledge my limitations so that I can receive help from people who are strong where I am weak. I’m learning to accept in my heart that I don’t know everything and that I can’t do everything on my own. I’m learning to give people space to accept or reject my requests – be it for help, friendship, connection or whatever else. I’m learning to accept that I will have disappointments in life, but I am discovering that I will also have authentic relationship, joy, victory and peace. Without love and free will, none of that is possible. Love involves risk. Love takes risks. Fear is void of risk, trust, freedom, free will, joy, peace and everything good in life. Living in fear is failing to live and love. I don’t want to fail at living or loving any more. So, I’m taking a leap into the unknown and curiously expecting amazing things to come up in this crazy new adventure of learning to fail. (I’m going to try to relax and not over-achieve at failing…but no promises!)