When it comes to failure, believe me when I say that I’ve had my fair share. The challenge, however, is how we acknowledge that we’re in the valley of calamity–whether we react out of the ego or respond in the Spirit.
Do we fall down in despair, blaming and shaming or do we fail up in vulnerability, accountability, and enlightenment?
Do we fall back on the same habits, attachments, and mindsets or do we fail forward into higher levels of consciousness, detachment, and surrender?
Failing up and failing forward are hard enough to do on a personal level, but that process is further exacerbated by the way society has been organized to divide us in so many ways and even by our failures and successes. Failures have been used as yet another means to not only divide us, but as a means to define us and to deny us.
In America, we have been heavily indoctrinated with false notions of success, fake conceptions of meritocracy, and fraudulent presumptions of respectability that are rooted in the fiction of a one-size-fits-all-cookie-cutter American dream. The reality, however, is that the American dream has become a living daymare for many in a racially biased, crony capitalistic, and scarcity-based system.
So, how do you process failure in a way that is life-giving, other-affirming, and truth-confronting?
It is hard to say in a country that places so much emphasis on winning that it has whitewashed its white supremacist history, sanitized its crimes against humanity, and institutionalized the “witchcraft” of “succeeding at the expense of others”–as defined by Dr. Albert Raboteau of Princeton University.
But I will say that failure can be a pathway to Purpose Place or simply a speed bump on Buffoon Boulevard. According to the Apostle John, the difference is in how you process things, because when you process anything through “the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches,” (1 John 2:16) without the power of the Spirit, you are out of alignment.
Let me just suggest that these desires correlate with three of the four energy centers–the physical, emotional, and mental. And please don’t misinterpret that desires are wrong or bad, because by themselves they are not; your desires just need to be rooted in the truth of who you are as a spirit-being.
This brings to mind something a wise mother of the church once told me. She said that you should not make any major decisions when you are “Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired”–or in other words you should H.A.L.T. when your physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental energy centers are compromised. Failure is one of those phenomenons that compromises our energy centers and inhibits our capacity to process it graciously.
Moving through failure to fulfillment, however, is a way to “enter through the narrow gate (of the spirit) ; for the gate (of the ego) is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it.” (Matthew 7:13) When Jesus took the narrow gate that looked like failure on Good Friday, he was really taking a pathway to Resurrection and ultimately to his purpose.
But let me just be clear that Jesus’ purpose was not to be criminalized for leading the “Poor People’s Campaign,” not to be deemed dangerous or unpatriotic for his activist stance against the excesses and hypocrisy of empire, not to be indicted on trumped up charges after a fruitless attempt to coerce a confession out of him, and not to be murdered in a state-sanctioned lynching that had been normalized by the police state.
Jesus’ purpose was to bring in the Kingdom of God that flips the script on failure and redefines success from a sense of being that informs doing, and from an abundance mindset of giving that informs receiving.
What is the Kingdom? It is love, acceptance, belonging right where you are–the experience of ultimate love, nurture, and support in this life not just the hereafter.
What is failure? Real failure is not what society has told you, but it is an unwillingness to live or die for something greater than ourselves.
What is success? Dr. Maya Angelou puts it this way, “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”
Moving through failure to fulfillment is not automatic; it is a choice that each of us must make. That choice can either take us to deeper depths of egomaniacal disillusionment or to higher heights of consciousness and fulfillment.