pass or fail?

March 29, 2011

Do you remember taking those pass/fail tests in school?  The ones where you weren’t really given a grade at all, no B, C or D; just a “yes you passed,” or a “no you fail.”

So what if you graded yourself that way in every area of your life?  Your job, your family, your friendships etc.  Initially the desire to excel and perform well may seem admirable and even achievable on many levels.  But once the level of perfection is not reached in one area – say a relationship for example – you realize that not only did you not pass, but you failed.  Then a cycle is formed where you either shut down completely and isolate so you don’t have to feel the burden of failure again, or you continue to put the burden on yourself and on your loved ones (they are in the relationship too) until your need for “success” has driven them away or driven you mad.  It is a paradigm set-up for the very thing you fear – failure.

I write this because it is the schema which I’ve operated under for a lot of my adult life.  Why? I’m not so sure, but I’ve seen the disease and it’s effects on myself and those I love.  In such a view there is no room for the remedy of grace.  Grace to love when others don’t, grace to forgive when it hurts and grace to receive the love given.  The hard thing about receiving grace is having the awareness of your desperate need for such an other-worldly thing.

Once grace is received it frees us from the burden of such a paradigm and we’re able to take real action in pursuing our dreams and more importantly, loving others well.  It seems to me that the antidote to the fear of failure and mediocrity is an extraordinary dose of grace.  Which, ironically, frees us to strive for excellence… or at least a ‘B.’

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