by Lorrie Slater, PhD
Failure is part of the human experience, be it on a test, in a relationship, marriage, or business, we all experience the pain of failure. I’ve heard it said that there is no such thing as failure but failure is an opportunity to learn what not to do and try something different. While there may be some truth in that saying, if you’ve ever failed at something big you know it can feel hopeless. Instead of growing from the failure, we become paralyzed in our insecurities and fear. What if I fail again? What’s wrong with me? Why couldn’t I do this thing? All these questions hold us in our fear and keep us from growing.
But “failure is a bruise, not a tattoo” (Jon Sinclair). Some bruises run deep and cause us to protect and favor the bruised area but eventually, it will heal. Some bruises are small and go unnoticed until someone bumps up against them. We recoil in pain and wonder, where’d that bruise come from? Regardless of the size or origin of the bruise, it still hurts! Each one needs the care and attention it deserves. The same is true if the bruise is a result of failure. Our ego or our heart hurts and needs attention to heal properly.
Failure teaches us lessons on pain we think we don’t want to learn. We believe this hurt will never heal. But, we do have a choice – a choice of if and what we learn and how we will heal!
Failure teaches us to ask for and receive help, and healing begins. We learn through pain we are weaker and, as healing begins, stronger than once thought. We learn that we don’t have to have all the answers to keep going, and healing continues. We can choose to learn that a failure doesn’t have to be a definition but it can be a defining moment. Will failure be allowed to paralyze us or will we choose to push through the pain of striving toward an arbitrary point of perfection and learn that healing comes when both failure and success are acceptable? Maybe failure isn’t about this this unaccomplished thing. Maybe the greatest failure is choosing to live in the pain instead of learning from the lesson it promises to teach. Remember, it’s a bruise. Don’t make it a tattoo.
Lorrie Slater, PhD
Marriage and family counseling
Divorce recovery and blending families
Anxiety, depression, and difficult life transitions