The Illusion of Failure
Have you ever sat back and randomly thought, "Wow, I haven't cried over that in a while."? If you're not a crier, don't rub it in. But just input your respective release.
"Wow, I haven't cursed over that..."
"Wow, I haven't drank over that..."
"Wow, I haven't used over that..."
In a while.
And as you pause and reflect on this pleasant surprise, a flutter of excitement accompanies the idea that you just might FINALLY be over it.
And as you go about your healed life with great expectation, you find yourself on an optimistic high. Surely, you are in a better place. But just before you can get comfortable with feeling free and whole again, something triggers a memory, and while it resurfaces, you are forced to confront all of the feelings you imagined would have expired by now.
"By now." What does that even mean? 🙄
I once had a friend mention the time period that had elapsed since something happened in my life, as if time was supposed to heal the wound and I shouldn't be sensitive to the topic anymore. Let's go ahead and debunk that myth right here: we heal over time, but time is not what heals. Even still, I know we have all been in a situation where we felt like we should feel better "by now". We consider the calendar year, all of the life events that have happened, how much everyone else has moved on, and we are perplexed as we wonder why in the world we STILL.
Why am I STILL mad?
Why am I STILL hurt?
Why am I STILL sad?
Why am I STILL affected...
And there's nothing more frustrating than feeling like you really let it go and then boom--a trigger. And all of a sudden you remember. Reluctantly, you remember. You remember what it felt like to lose. And even more painful than acknowledging the memory of the feeling, is realizing that after "all of this time", you still feel that way.
At this point, you probably begin to beat yourself up. "WHY am I still stuck on him? WHY am I still stuck on this? WHY am I still crying about that? WHY am I still MAD?" We can pretend with other people but we can't pretend with ourselves. And once we realize these emotions haven't left us, we have to dig deeper to get to the root and answer our own, "WHY...?"
This should not be a rhetorical lecture to self, you really need to soul search and answer the question.
Why does this still bother me?
For a while, I struggled with answering that question. I sincerely didn't know, and as much as I wanted to emotionally reset, I couldn't make my feelings go away. And believe me, I didn't want them. There may be people who like to dwell in being the victim and being cold, but there are others who just want to be FREE. Not free from the loss--because we won't always get our way and we should make peace with that--but free from the pain of the loss. Free from the feelings. Ah, we're onto something! Before we can uncover why we are still bothered, we have to confront how we truly feel.
The first thing you need to do is recall what happened. And it may be painful to think about, but you have to comb through every detail. What did they do? What did they say? And how did that make you feel?
This isn't the time to say, "Sad, mad, disappointed," etc. It's deeper than that and you must be specific.
When assessing what triggered my own lingering emotions, I realized that most of the time it was sight. Sometimes it was the sight of certain people, certain places, and certain things. And each time I saw them or it, I relived that initial blow of loss.
Like the blow you felt when your ex posted a picture with his new girlfriend. Or the double blow you felt when he proposed.
Like the blow you felt when you locked eyes with the co-worker who got the promotion over you.
Like the blow you felt when you failed a pre-requisite course and watched your classmates start the professional program without you.
Like the blow you felt when your friend made line and you didn't.
I could go on, but I'm sure you get the point.
So then I pondered on what it was that was taking place when I had these visual triggers. And as a personal exercise, I decided to write it down.
"When I see _____, I am reminded of ______."
I needed to pinpoint what the triggers reminded me of and from there I could identify how it made me feel. This is what I ended up writing:
"I am reminded of my poor judgment
I am reminded of my naivety
I am reminded of loss
I am reminded of rejection
...and so I am not angry about what happened;
I am angry about how what happened makes me feel."
And by reviewing what I wrote, I realized I wasn't even just angry at how what happened made me feel, I was angry at how it made me feel about myself. That was the root.
I allowed a failed relationship to translate into personal failure, and I found a way to blame the pain on myself. "I am reminded of my poor judgment...I am reminded of my naivety." In these two statements, I took ownership of why I felt the way I did. At this point, I realized it wasn't a "them" problem, it was a "me" problem. And the reason I became bothered from mere memory of what happened is not because I had not forgiven the person, but because I had not forgiven myself.
Sometimes things don't work out the way you want them to, and you are partly at fault. Maybe there was something you should've done but didn't. Maybe there was something you shouldn't have done but did. And if it were the other way around, maybe things would've turned out differently.
Maybe you'd still be together.
Maybe you would've gotten the position.
Maybe you'd be making more money.
Maybe you would've gotten accepted into the program.
Sometimes there are indeed things we could've done that would've changed the trajectory of our lives. But no matter where we fell short, we have to forgive ourselves.
If you ignored red flags and the relationship failed, you have to forgive yourself.
If you weren't as disciplined in your study efforts and you failed the course, you have to forgive yourself.
If you weren't as thorough as you could've been in the interview and you didn't get the job, you have to forgive yourself.
When something you did played a part in the failure, you still have to forgive yourself.
If you don't, no matter how much you try to move forward, there will always be triggers that take you to a place where you look down on who you are.
But get this--even if it wasn't something you did that played a part in the failure, you cannot allow the failure to make you feel like a failure. Just because it didn't work out does not mean that you weren't smart enough, competent enough, or worthy enough. It had nothing to do with who you were or what you had to offer. Sometimes things don't happen simply because God did not will them to. And we never know why until later down the road, but when you lose something that God never had for you, that is not defeat; that's destiny.
I hear the Lord saying, "Stop walking in defeat." If you claim to be a child of God, how dare you walk in defeat??? Half the time, we put way too much hope in fickle things, people, and opportunities. And when they are no longer active in our life, we feel like we can't go on because we put all of our hope in something that had the power to fail us! If you're in an emotional rut that you can't seem to get out of, please let it be a teachable moment. Stop building your hope on things that are not eternal.
Part of the problem is that we give things too much power. And then the absence of that thing has the power to shift our mood, distort our perceptions, and manipulate the way we view ourselves. But we cannot allow accomplishments and acquisitions to define our self-esteem, because in the absence of those things, we don't know who we are.
Just because it failed, does not mean you are a failure.
Go back to the drawing board and rediscover who God created you to be. 'Cause, friend, sometimes we forget!! And we allow loss to make us feel like we are incomplete and lacking in value. But you alone are not only enough, you are great. And you're great apart from that degree, apart from that person, apart from that organization, apart from that title, apart from that job, and apart from that salary. In Him, there is no failure. And being a victor is defined by what you think, not by what you have.
God loves you, I love you, and I want you to love you. I want you to forgive yourself. And I want you to be confident of this very thing, that He who hath begun a good work in you shall perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. Go confront those emotions and be made whole.
Look up and,