Are you watching the Summer Olympics? Besides the actual tournaments there are stories after stories about the climb to success from the most unlikeliest places. But, have you ever watched the defeats including the false-starts in track, falls off the gymnastic beam, and team snafus in soccer, basketball, or water polo. Do you know that for the vast majority of athletes walking in the opening ceremony is the only success they’ll experience? Then there are those we don’t see; the ones who worked hard for years and never made it to the Olympics.
Failure hurts. After all, usually we put our heart and soul into the endeavor fully anticipating that our hard work will yield good results. Sometimes it doesn’t. Businesses fail. Children grow up, lose the faith, and/or get themselves into trouble.
All the Saints experienced failure. Charles de Foucauld died before his dream of a religious brotherhood was realized. Francis of Assisi watched his order stray from his original intent. Elizabeth Seton had a failed business and two sons strayed from the faith. The list goes on and on.
As the Saints teach us, failure doesn’t need to throw us into the pit of self-pity, brow beating, self-recrimination, anger, or resentment. There is great opportunity in failure. It comes through discovering that self-worth doesn’t come from success. It comes from God. Once we realize that deep down devastation turns into mere temporary disappointment, fear gives way to trust, and plans turn into doing ones best then letting it go in order to savor the moment at hand.
“Good works are the most perfect when they are wrought in the most pure and sincere love of God, and with the least regard to our own present and future interests, or to joy and sweetness, consolation or praise.” –John of the Cross
Photo of 2016 Olympics stadium by Mariordo, Creative Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rio_2016_Brasil_x_AdS_BSB_8002.jpg
This is an updated one from 2014.