Encouragement for Failures (Part 2)   1 comment

Mardi’s letter to me continued:

I began to think of life as a school in which each person who is born is given a unique curriculum especially designed just for them.  It includes many gifts that will give pleasure and gifts that will give pain.  There will be things to strengthen and things to challenge.  There will be things that seem to help and things that seem to block us.  But the purpose of everything is not to become or to achieve or to acquire any of the things we end up using our lives to become, achieve and acquire.  They are all given to us in order to teach us something more, greater, something of Real value.

People who are successful have been given a curriculum that includes success in the things they attempt.  But the purpose is for them to learn something through the experiences of success.  They cannot take credit for their success.  It was given to them.  What counts is whether they learn that thing of Real value that success was given to them to learn.

And non-success can be given to others for the same reason, to learn something Real that only the experience of non-success can teach.  That thing is the real purpose of the experience – the real purpose of all the experiences of our life.

Everyone seems to think that success is not only a thing of great value, but it is perhaps the thing of greatest value in life.  In fact it appears to be such an absolute necessity that everyone gets very upset when I assert that I am unsuccessful and they try to come up with a definition of successful that will allow me to be included.  They don’t seem to understand when I try to explain that success really isn’t valuable.  We don’t need it. We can live very happily without it!

But how does this relate to your pursuit of your own dreams.  Well, when I came up with this theory I decided it wasn’t so important that I figure out how to overcome my non-success and achieve the great American dream of success.  I thought perhaps it was more important to sit back and thoughtfully evaluate the experiences of my life so far.  I think you need to be at least in your mid-30’s before you have enough life experiences to begin to recognize your individual pattern.  It seemed clear that for whatever reasons, my life was being exemplified by large amounts of non-success.  So instead of fighting a pointless battle to achieve a dubious goal, I decided to accept my gift of non-success and begin to try to explore it’s potential for leading me into an even deeper spiritual awareness.

So perhaps for you, you might want to take a look at your life and see what degree of success you can expect given your track record so far!  I like to call it a success ratio.  It’s a ratio of the percentage of our efforts that have been successful as compared to those that have not been.  If you’re having only a moderate success ratio, or a low success ratio in the various areas of your life, then perhaps you won’t want to pursue the more elaborate and intense version of your dreams.  You might want to scale down your expectations and re-think your dream in terms of what you might be able to achieve.

I don’t know if you like that idea.  I can hear the high-power achievers calling it “defeatist”.  But is it defeatist for a guy who is 5ft.2 to decide that maybe he should try to be a jockey instead of spending his life trying to get into the NBA?  You could mention Muggsy Bouges.  But in addition to being given a short body he was also given extraordinary skills, great speed, a consuming passion for the game of basketball and a high success ratio.   In evaluating our potential in life we need to consider all our gifts, gifts of strength and gifts of weakness. If success is something that is given to us in order to learn something of greater value, isn’t it simply wisdom to accept our personal success ratio, learn how to live with it and learn from it.

Well, since we couldn’t finish our discussion on success ratio, I thought about it on the way home and polished up my argument a bit more.  I realize that everyone is so uncomfortable with my ideas on success because our Reformation Protestant European work ethic perspectives have equated success with our personal value, our meaning in life and our fulfillment as persons.  We think we must have success to have value, meaning and fulfillment.  In fact none of these are actually connected to success and most other periods of history and other cultures understand this much better than the average American who has put them all in the same computer file.

So to say I am not successful – and probably never will be – does not mean that my life has no value.  My life derives its value from the fact that I am made in the image of God.  Every life has the same value.  No life, however successful, has any more value than another, no matter how desperate a failure.  The value of each life is, incredibly, as valuable to God as His own life!  If I am feeling devalued or being treated as of no value by those who have misunderstood the nature of the value of life, I have only to meditate on the true value of my life.  Value is not something you can be more or less successful at.  It’s not in the same category as things which can be rated as successful or not.

Lack of success also does not mean that my life has no meaning.  My life has been given meaning, a purpose and a goal by Jesus who came to show us God and to make a way for us to return to God who is our only true Love and only true Home.  And he made himself the way, so that we have not just a sure pathway but a loving companion.  That is all the meaning any life could need – to walk with God, through God, in God, to God.  And once again that is not something I can be successful at, it is simply something that has been given to me and I enter into the gift.

And fulfillment in life cannot be attached to success either.  That which produces fulfillment in life is love – giving love and receiving love.  Love is something that comes out of your heart, it’s not an accomplishment which can be achieved in varying degrees of success.  It is like your breathing – you breathe in the love of others and you breathe out love to others.  And the ultimate source of all the love we have to receive and give is God from whom we come and to whom we are returning through Jesus.

Success not only does not produce value, meaning or fulfillment, it also cannot affect these things.  They are totally independent of success.  The imaginary value of success in our culture is purely illusory.  It has no real value at all.  And yet people assume it holds the very key to a valuable, meaningful, fulfilled life.  This illusion is so pervasive that even Christians get uncomfortable when I assert that my life is essentially unsuccessful.  They do not want to listen to my happy acceptance of this assessment.


Posted July 17, 2011 by janathangrace in Guests, Uncategorized

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One response to “Encouragement for Failures (Part 2)

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  1. A major contribution to my unsuccessfulness has been lack of, or bad choices, timing, lack of money, etc. Mostly it has been about making sacrifices for the right reasons over making an investment in career, money. Used to be in my 20′s, extremely fit, the world was my oyster, but I then chose the most difficult, but correct decision all for the sake of love and it cost me everything I have. Becoming extremely poor has shown me who I am and who my friends and family truly are. They have been very hard lessons to learn. Without money things have become extremely difficult. I have given up ability to try to move forward because my options are limited due to age, perspective, and lack of money. Bitterness, and sadness are the hurdles I have to overcome with God’s help now and pray that I will have enough money to at least creamate, or bury me when I am on my way to heaven.

    These are the worldly attributes that Christians have to learn amongst, within, and through. Money is the biggest of all of the obstacles to one having success or not in life and affects every aspect of one’s life. It’s much more difficult to survive in this world without money. Yes, one can live without money, but not very well and without any money will end up being homeless until some fine Christian takes them in. One has to have money to make money too. Those with money attract others who have money (as well as attracting those who have no money and also for the wrong reasons). Being poor or without money leaves one in a more vulnerable position in life too and limits options of success because everything costs money. Otherwise, it’s much more difficult to acheive dreams and have successes. Money affects what one eats and how much too, they wear, where they live, many times who they associate with how those will associate with them, their healthcare, etc. Poor people are forced to make decisions they wouldn’t make otherwise, and are taken advantage of many times just as a weaker, smaller animal in a pursued herd of Antelopes is eaten by a lioness. One with money has the ability to make more choices, have more opportunities, higher eschelon of friends, and though God is ultimately in control, people who are poor are subjected to those with money and are even taken advantage of by the rich. A rich man needs cheap laborers…and who will do these jobs? They say, sorry this is all we can pay, but know good and well this job pays more with other like jobs. Getting that job that pays more is challenged with other competitors or everyone else who wants more money and it’s not always the best one that gets the job…it’s whoever the rich man decides will have it. Having money or lack thereof does destroy some relationships.

    Living through all the success of loving and other non-successes all make me want to get to heaven that much quicker, but who knows what God has in store for me now. Today I pray for His will not mine be done and whether or not I believe in his will this will be done. I pray that I haven’t sacrificed my soul to gain the world, which, I haven’t even attained and that it’s His love I receive throughout life. Trusting that God is who He says He is and determining what his purposes are for me now are successful focuses no matter how much money I ever have, but won’t make life an easier journey as many with money have.

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