Failing Well - Sage Hill Counseling

No one naturally seeks to become mediocre, the diminishment of excellence. Anyone who thinks that they seek mediocrity, i.e., the uninspired, indifferent, average, lackluster, or forgettable, is confused as to who they are and how they are made.

They are actually discouraged by past painful life events, disillusioned by failed attempts at fulfillment, distrustful of others and authority, and/or stuck in some form of despair because of the toxic shame that surrounds their desire, longings, and hope. As a way to simplify, mediocrity follows the old aphorism: “Don’t get your hopes up, and that way you will be protected from the pain or embarrassment of ‘going for it.’”

People stuck in “getting by” see themselves as not mattering because of outside forces, or not mattering because of some inherent deficiency. To protect themselves from more pain, they chronically judge others as potential victimizers from their pasts and/or judge themselves as victims of their pasts—because they have faced such experiences, of course. Those experiences don’t have to be the future, however.

Preventing the past from recurring creates a vigilant focus on protecting one’s self from more pain. Tragically, future friends and freedoms potentially become the enemy. Also, the heart’s deeper desires become threats of hope that potentially push one toward risks of new attempts—where failure could await. Keeping one’s head down in mediocrity is the safety. The prevention can poison a future of something better, because we cannot see it, or we are actually not looking for it. Ironically, the past can prevent a different future from occurring.

We are born to be “a part of” something bigger than ourselves that we contribute to. We seek to be valued for who we are and what we bring. We wish and pursue to be known as noteworthy. All of which entails taking risks of exposure and trust with others in a mission of some sort.

In as much, we have to be willing to take risks, do poorly at first, fail, learn more, gain experience and knowledge about ourselves and what we are doing, and then repeat. Repeat and repeat. We fail well.

Following G.K. Chesterton’s wisdom, “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.” That is, we relinquish perfection and the protection of mediocrity, learn from our pasts, and take on internal motivation. We then develop into “wherever we are headed.” This disposition and action explodes the protection of mediocrity. We develop an internal locus of control, or risking something because it “matters to me,” and others need “me.”

We all have to fail. We all have to have pain in failure. We all will have more pain than otherwise if we risk more than the mediocre. Consider Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, and Mother Teresa as examples of failing well.

Failing well offers us one of the building blocks of excellence. Excellence is not perfection or waking up one day and we are suddenly gifted without effort, risk, or embarrassment. Excellence means diminishing, often little by little, what creates friction that slows down accomplishment. Literally, it means reducing friction that slows movement, like barnacles on a ship’s hull that have to be grinded off to allow the ship to do what it is built to do—move through the water efficiently to its destination.

Whomever or whatever blocked the natural development of your own risk taking does not have to be your future. I pray for us to endure, not the mediocre, but failing well. I pray for us to keep asking for help, find others who know failing well and seek their experience, strength, and hope. I pray for us to listen to our hearts and the God who made us with heart. Then, repeat and repeat.

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