I don’t like admitting failure. No one does.

Failure is especially difficult for those of us who embraced the American myth: “With enough determination and enough desire, you can do anything and become anyone!”

I am a citizen of a nation founded upon this myth, and reared by a generation who lived and preached the myth of no limitations. I was bathed in “can-do,” clothed in “can-do,” and fed to the gills with “can-do.” Failure, according to this myth, is the result of my own unwillingness to claim my birthright or my lack of faith in God, who gave it to me.

Having come to my crossroads moment, I’m beginning to accept the possibility that my successes and failures may have little to do with my character, and everything to do with my identity.

As author, Parker J. Palmer, writes,

Each of us arrives here with a nature, which means both limits and potentials. We can learn as much about our nature by running into our limits as by experiencing our potentials. . . . Our problem as Americans . . . is that we resist the very idea of limits, regarding limits of all sorts as temporary and regrettable impositions on our lives. Our national myth is about the endless defiance of limits: opening the western frontier, breaking the speed of sound, dropping people on the moon . . . We refuse to take no for an answer.[1]

I hate limits. I despise failure. They offend my American sensibilities and they challenge my male identity. Consequently, I have made them my lifelong sworn enemies.

Now, as I stand at a crossroads, I’m beginning to see that limits and failure may have been my allies all along.

It’s not that I didn’t have the smarts to succeed or that I lacked the work ethic. Instead, my failures show me where I did not attempt the right things while my successes reveal where my strengths are best applied.

Limits help me channel my potentials in harmony with my God-given identity as I walk the path He has set before me (Psalm 139:13–16). Failures are the signs that identify limits and keep me from going down dangerous paths that may harm others or myself again.

Coming to terms with my failures will not be easy, but I’m already beginning to experience the peace that comes with admitting limitations.

Enjoying success should be simpler now.

 

 

[1] Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation (San Francisco: Josey-Bass, 2000), 41–42.

 

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