We all fail. Sometimes we fail in spectacular ways, like leaving a friend stranded at the airport or cheating on our spouse. Sometimes we fail in small ways, like paying a bill a day late or forgetting to wear our watch. But no matter how hard we work, how diligently we manage our resources, how effective our systems are, we will fail.
Learning how to accept these failures is key to a delicious life. Last year, I decided I wanted to enter a cross stitch work in the NC State Fair. I selected a gorgeous pattern and started work immediately after the 2015 Fair ended (all entries must be completed in the 12 months between Fairs). I worked on it daily. I made good progress. In January, I made just two resolutions: Write daily and Cross Stitch daily.
I created systems to support me in my goal. I organized my thread bobbins. I kept the entire project in one bag so I could grab and go wherever. I used TV time to cross stitch. I carried my project with me on every trip. I told everybody I knew what I was doing, in order to be held accountable.
And yet, in the last three months, I realized that I would not finish my project.
The deadline for entering the Fair is almost definitely passed. And while some people say I should just enter next year, I can’t knowingly break the rules, so I have missed my shot. Here’s a photo of where I currently am:
So how am I processing my failure? Because that’s what it is, despite what kind friends and family say to me. I set a goal, a big goal, and I didn’t achieve it.
First I felt my feelings.
I have processed my disappointment. About two months ago, when I saw the writing on the wall, I put the project away for a few weeks. I felt a sorry for myself. I thought about other projects I could work on.
Then I gave myself forgiveness and grace.
This is by far the most difficult thing I do in my life. I forgive myself and let go of guilt. I let go of disappointment. How? By remembering this vital truth: God loves me freely and completely.
I’m not talking about sentimental sweet love. I’m not talking about a small God-in-a-box. I’m talking about the fundamental truth of the universe, a truth that mystics across the ages, around the world, in all religions, have recognized. The Divine Creator loves us unabashedly. God does not care about my failures or my successes, just as I don’t care about my daughter’s failures or successes. There’s nothing my child can do that will make me love her any more or any less, and it’s the same way with the Creator of the universe.
Christians teach this, but we don’t do such a great job of it. Still, if you read authors like Philip Yancy, or Madeleine L’Engle, or Rob Bell, you can find it. And if you are in another faith tradition, study your mystics. See what they have to say. And if you don’t follow a faith tradition, read Martha Beck, a religion-free mystic. God cares about our lives. And yes, God wants us to succeed. But our actions don’t impact the level of God’s love.
So don’t change your own self love based on your actions! If the Divine Creator loves you no matter what, you can love yourself.
Am I getting too serious, too theological about a simple missed deadline? No. Because we learn these big skills in the small details. As I give myself grace for a small failure, I practice giving myself grace for the big ones.
So hang on to this thought today, with your successes and failures. You are beloved, no matter what you do or say.