Dealing With Failure- Summary

This has been a very helpful study for me. Actively striving to be more Christ-like has been a wonderful experience where I have seen found real growth and increased happiness. Many behaviors have organically improved all on their own, far more easily than I ever would have thought possible.
But while there have been areas of quick growth, there have also been other areas that are far more difficult to grow in, and behaviors that have proved far more resistant to change than I had expected. And in response to those complications I have seen the rise of my old, familiar inner critic.
Through this study I have found some important lessons for how to deal with these growing pains, and having this understanding has already brought me a greater sense of peace. I guess this was just another area I needed growth in! Here are the main points that stood out to me from my study.

Keep Pressing Forward)

I have never had a time where I didn’t want to improve myself, but there was a period where it was more of an idle wish than an actual intention. And even that idle wishing was incomplete, because only some flaws did I care to improve on, while others I just didn’t care about.
Eventually I was woken up to my desperate need for God and a path to follow. I realized that my existence was lifeless, and would remain so unless I was actively chasing for a better me. And at that same time I realized that if I was going to give myself over to this journey, it needed to be all the way. Now I knew that I must improve myself in every area.
It simply wasn’t going to cut it to overcome lust and deceit, but leave myself a guarded recluse. Nor would it do to only build meaningful relationships, but not improve the way I cared for my body.
And the outcome of this is that I can take glory in the failures I experience, because it means I’m actually trying. It means I’m no longer accepting a half-lived life. Friction, after all, is not felt until one starts moving.
Luke 9:62- And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.
Ephesians 5:14- Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.

Be Direct, But Kind)

One of the most surprising epiphanies that came to me through this research was that the healthy way to treat someone else when they let me down is the same way I should treat myself when I let me down. It seems such a simple concept that I’m honestly embarrassed to say that this was a revelation, but really it answered so many of my questions and frustrations.
Or to put it another way, the golden rule flows both directions. Yes, I should do unto others as I would have others do unto me…but also I should do unto myself as I would have others do unto me!
If I do something to let someone else down, I would not want them to scream at or hurt me. Nor would I want them to deny that it was wrong of me, either. I would hope that they could be honest about their frustration, express it without hate, give clear direction as to which of my behaviors is causing the pain, and still reassure me of their unconditional love.
It takes effort to do that. It can by very hard to get into a mental state that can be so vulnerable and kind. And I am sure that there will be many who never treat me that way. But at the very least, I should.
Doctrine and Covenants 121:43- Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;
Galatians 6:1- Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

Ask For Help)

The final takeaway from my study was the need for surrendering. My default behavior is to believe that I have to do things myself. I am reluctant to ask for help, or to accept kindness when it is offered. Even when I was at school and didn’t understand a difficult concept, I was more likely to beat my head against the wall trying to figure out on my own instead of raising my hand and asking a question.
It seems a simple logic that if I got myself into this mess, I should be able to get myself out of it. If I was able to do the behaviors that led me here, I must also be able to do the opposite behaviors to get myself back.
But that just. Isn’t. True.
Yes, some steps can be undone, but some make you fall down a hole that you don’t have the gear to climb out of. And it isn’t a question of if this will happen, Adam and Eve set the pattern for this Fall and each of us will follow it. We will all be down in that pit in life, in fact we’ll be there several times.
So I will do my best, my absolute, genuine best. But then, as always, I will rely on grace. For there are many parts of my heart that are too deep for me to reach, and only God can change them.
Psalm 55:22- Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.
1 Corinthians 2:5- That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
2 Nephi 25:23- For we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.

Dealing With Failure- 1 Thessalonians 5:5-6, Ephesians 5:14

Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.
Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.

Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.

COMMENTARY

Therefore let us not sleep, but let us watch and be sober
Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light
Recognizing your flaws, making efforts to improve on them, failing to do so perfectly, and picking yourself up to try again can be a hard and wearying process. But…it also means that you are spiritually awake and your discipleship is alive!
Of course it is possible to not feel the pain of trying, all it requires is that you give up. I was there once. I used to be oblivious to the areas of my life that needed improvement. I was asleep to the gospel and content with mediocrity.
As I found out, though, ignorance was not bliss. Sleeping through my own great story only meant that I was dissatisfied without understanding why.
Now I feel agitated to become the best version of myself that I can. Yes, at times it can feel overwhelming, but it is a genuine privilege to shoulder that burden. It is far better than to remain asleep.

Dealing With Failure- Galatians 6:1

Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

COMMENTARY

If a man be overtaken in a fault, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness
I spoke yesterday of how self-correction can be an act of love and protection, where I endeavor to preserve my delicate and spiritual nature from the more callous and worldly part of me. However I have also learned that rushing to the defense of the spiritual does not mean that I must become harsh with the flesh. When one shouts at oneself, one tends to shout at all of oneself, both the offender and the offended.
Yes, the flesh does need to be subdued and bridled. And yes, when I stand between it and the spirit, I must be firm and direct. But as this verse suggests, I can also have a spirit of meekness and compassion during that stance.
This might seem like a contradiction of terms, but it makes sense when I remember the times I have corrected my own children from a healthy, grounded state. A good parent will firmly enforce rules and boundaries to a child, but in the same moment will hold them, express love, and patiently explain the reasons for the rule.
Because in the end, my worldly, misbehaving self often feels like a small child himself. A young, naïve boy who is trying to get what he wants by misguided means. He is a manipulative boy, even a bully of a boy, but rather than be hated for it, he just needs someone to instruct and correct him. Firmly and directly, but also compassionately.

Dealing With Failure- Psalm 82:3-4, Matthew 18:10

Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.
Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.

Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.

COMMENTARY

Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked
Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones
These verses have an obvious literal interpretation: to protect and defend the helpless and the young. But also, as I considered the topic of this study, I thought of a figurative interpretation for them also.
The fact is, when I do something that I know is wrong, something that causes harm to my heart, I have a sense like that of a child crying inside. There is a youthful and needy soul within me, delicate and sensitive, and it has to be protected.
Indeed, every wrong action is an act of self-harm in some way, for we are fundamentally composed of a divine spirit, that cannot help but be wounded at the presence of vice. Self-correction, therefore, ought to be considered an act of self-protecting love.

Dealing With Failure- Mosiah 4:27, Isaiah 28:10

And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.

For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:

COMMENTARY

And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order
It is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength
Line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little
I greatly appreciate the pragmatism in these verses. There is sincerely committing to improving ourselves one step at a time, and there is overextending ourselves with unrealistic promises.
When we start to feel the reality of God manifesting in us it is a very exciting experience, and we can easily get carried away with all the good things we intend to do. In a moment of rapture we might very well promise God everything. We will be His perfect, faithful child now, never to stray again. And in that moment we fully believe we can deliver on such a promise. To be fair, if we were to maintain that same state of rapture forever, we probably really could keep that promise, too!
But we don’t…and we don’t.
No, after each spiritual awakening there follows an awakening back to the old us. And it is that old us that needs to be changed. And that change is not accomplished by demanding perfection at once, but by line upon line. Yes, demand change of yourself, but also be practical about it!

Dealing With Failure- Psalm 51:1-3, 6-7, 1 Peter 5:6

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:

COMMENTARY

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness
According unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions
I am continuing to examine the need to surrender my shame and burdens to God. Rather than always trying to make myself be better, I ought to let Him make me better.
But how do I do that? What are the steps to surrendering? What are the words that I must say to better invite God into my life?
I started asking myself these questions before I realized that I was making the exact same mistake as before! I was looking for some specific quota to fill that would bring God into my life. I wanted to be told “say these special words, pray this many times, help this many people.” And at its core this was all about having my healing be in my own power again. God will save me, just as soon as I earn His saving.
And as before, that’s just not how it works. As the psalm quoted above explains, it is according to His lovingkindness, and it is according to His mercies. It has to be His way, done on His own terms, and in His own due time. His will, not ours.

Humble yourselves under the hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time
The only formula that I should maintain is to try my genuine best, keep an open heart, hold out hope, trust that He will come, invite Him with sincerity, and be totally honest with Him and myself.
After all that, at what point along that journey will He show up? I have no clue.
When will He decide that I’m ready for His grace? Totally up to Him.
How and when will He heal my heart? Not for me to say.
I just trust that in His own time, in His own way, and by His own criteria…He will be there.

Dealing With Failure- Daniel 9:4-6, 10-11

And I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments;
We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments:
Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets, which spake in thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.
Neither have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets.
Yea, all Israel have transgressed thy law, even by departing, that they might not obey thy voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against him.

COMMENTARY

And I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession
I have just considered how I can respond to my daily failures by surrendering to God and inviting His strength instead of relying on my own. And like Daniel I have found that one of the first steps to doing that is to make a full and honest confession to Him.
Yes, He already knows everything that has transpired. He know perfectly well how I have failed and let myself down. But still taking the time to recall it has had a very purifying effect on me. It feels like taking it out and laying it all on the altar before Him. Anything I’m not ready to put out there He isn’t going to be able to heal.

We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled
Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets
Neither have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in his laws
Yea, all Israel have transgressed thy law

And now consider the wonderful example of specificity in Daniel’s prayer. He does not merely say “we sinned, forgive us,” he calls out that they rebelled against God…and did not listen to his prophets…and broke Gods laws. Israel needs reconciliation for all of these parts, not just one, and so he elaborates them all.
And so I have tried to be very thorough in my confession to God as well. And honestly, sometimes that has meant saying “this is what I did God…and to tell you the truth, I don’t feel as heartbroken about it as I think I should. I’m sorry, I just don’t….So could you help me to feel more? I think that’s what I really need right now.” A prayer as honest as that is far more likely to be answered!

Dealing With Failure- Isaiah 53:10, Psalm 55:22

Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.

Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved

COMMENTARY

Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed
If you’re like me, you struggled to accept the notion of God’s forgiveness being free. I wanted to pay Him back for the things I had done wrong, overcome my addictions by my own pure grit, and earn my place in salvation. After I failed to do this many times over, I finally humbled myself, and let Him win the victory for me. At long last I felt clean again.

Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee
And if you’re like me, once you were washed clean you went straight back to believing it was only up to you to keep yourself clean. I had accepted that I had to rely on God for the “big” stuff (forgiving serious sins and healing very deep wounds), but I was still on the hook for the “smaller” stuff (day-to-day obedience and managing stress).
But this verse in Psalms simply says to “cast thy burdens upon the Lord,” with no qualifier for only the ones of a sufficient size. Slowly I’ve been realizing that God wants me to surrender the “small” stuff too.
And I need to. Because when I rely on myself I fail at the “small” stuff all the time. I try to grip tighter and tighter, but still slip, and wonder why I can’t make myself do it right. And you know what? I don’t think that’s a question I really have to answer right now. I think right now I just need to accept the fact of it and surrender it to God.
I need to say “I really can’t make myself do it right. Simple as it seems…it’s beyond me. So I’ll stop trying to do it alone, and open up my heart to you, God, instead. Will You please come inside and win this battle for me? I will let it be Your victory now, not mine.”

Dealing With Failure- Personal Example #3

I am sure Satan is pleased when I do not commit to improve myself and instead accept complacency. But I also believe that he is pleased when I do make promises, but they are ones I cannot keep.

So many times I have tried to commit myself to perfection–“I will never do this thing again”–and so many times I have failed. Then I have said to myself “okay, so apparently last time wasn’t the last time…but this one has to be! So this time I’ll just have to screw up more moral resolve than before. I just have to grit my teeth and draw up more spiritual energy than last time to make this the most excellent commitment I can, one that would carry through forever!”

But then…I have slipped again. And what did I think then? Well, clearly I had to somehow find another great well of spiritual resolve within me, one even greater than the “even greater” last one…or else I obviously wouldn’t have a chance of succeeding this time either.

Over and over this pattern continued until I was all dried up. I simply could not find any more “even greater” wells of spiritual resolve. I couldn’t keep outperforming myself endlessly. So I became disheartened. I didn’t believe myself and the promises I made. It seemed that the best pledge I could come up with was meaningless, and I began to believe that I simply couldn’t improve. Other people could, but I couldn’t. I was stuck.

And I remained stuck until I realized there was a better way. God interrupted my spiral to show me there was an “even greatest” well that I could be making use of. One that wouldn’t ever fail me.

Dealing With Failure- Proverbs 3:5, 1 Corinthians 1:24, 1 Corinthians 2:5

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

COMMENTARY

Lean not unto thine own understanding
The weakness of God is stronger than men
Your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God
I have previously spoken of how I have sometimes been too hard on myself when I slip, and as I’ve considered that negative self-talk I have realized that it is a misguided attempt to control my behavior through fear. I am trying to force myself to be better via the tools of shame and embarrassment.
And this is me relying on my own strength, trying to control things according to my own power. In this effort I am utilizing the same forms of coercion that mankind has relied on through all of history to get what they want. Fear and shame are techniques that we continue to fall back on even though they are hugely ineffective. They are techniques that we use as a substitute for genuine power and confidence.
But as these verses suggest, there is a better way. There is another source of strength that each of us has access to, one that is greater than any mortal strength. So now the question is, how do we stop relying on our own power to improve ourselves, and utilize God’s instead?