Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Compassionate Failure

I wonder why we are all so hard on ourselves all the time!? I've been reflecting on my recent challenges and it's clear to me that I judge myself harshly at times on how I've responded. I demand a lot from myself. I want to handle all things easily and with grace. The fact that I'm human... and imperfect... frustrates the heck out of me at times.

I've felt like I haven't handled some of my challenges very gracefully of late. I've felt bad about that. I am getting back on track now, but as I look back on my behavior and my reactions, I cringe a bit.

A good friend of mine told me a story yesterday about how he had become very angry in a situation where, well, let's just say that it was a bit of a 'spiritual embarrassment' to have a public angry reaction! As he told me the story, and we both chuckled at the 'perfect storm' of circumstances that 'set him up' for an angry reaction, I felt nothing but compassion for him, and wanted to give him a big hug. His 'failure' was nothing in the grand scheme of things. If anything, it was just a grand opportunity to learn some important things about himself, laugh a bit, and try again next time. That's what life is really all about anyway.

Listening to his story, and witnessing my own loving, compassionate embrace of him... AND... what he did, I saw a stark contrast to the way I've been treating myself the past few months. I, at times, have been relentless and unforgiving in my own 'assessment' of how I handled all my challenges of late. i haven't been giving myself 1/2 of the compassion and understanding that I offered my friend yesterday.

I once heard someone say that we should treat ourselves as we would treat a dear friend. What a beautiful model for how we should look at and react to ourselves! The world would be a better place if we all did this!

What is 'failure' anyway? Maybe we define it as not living up to our potential, or to some ideal of how we should be or what we should achieve. Many of us live in constant fear of failure, and sometimes we perceive failure when there isn't one.

One of my favorite quotes is from Rudyard Kipling's poem, "IF." In one stanza he says,

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;

I believe this is one of the great challenges of life. There is value in triumph... and in disaster. Many of us really have a hard time with the disaster part! Yet... disaster and failure are part of life. They are vital pieces of the tapestry that makes a complete experience and crafts our character.

As I work to have more compassion for myself in the midst of my disasters... and my failures... I am reminded once again that being human means that I won't always do it right... and that will provide some of my greatest opportunities for growth and learning!

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