“Spiritual sense, contradicting the material senses, involves intuition, hope, faith, understanding, fruition, reality”.
Mary Baker Eddy
Don’t be defined by failure
The Olympics were all they promised to be – full of inspirational stories, wonderful feats of athletic ability, and great victories. But for some, the Olympics may have also been a disappointment, as athletes’ hopes of winning a medal were not realized.
I remember an interview with Olympian Dan O’Brien I heard years ago on the Mully and Hanley show on the SCORE, AM 670 Sports Radio in Chicago. Dan recounted how he’d been the favorite to win the decathlon at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. He had been proclaimed “The World’s Greatest Athlete”, but after three bad pole vault attempts during the Olympic trials in New Orleans, he failed to qualify for the 1992 Olympics. It was a huge defeat.
He said he was so devastated, he actually could not talk to anyone for about a week. But instead of resigning himself to failure and walking away, he took up the challenge and worked diligently to improve his pole vaulting. The result was, he not only qualified for the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta, but he won the gold medal in the decathlon event.
Today, Dan is an inspirational speaker and is often asked to talk to high school teams that have lost, and are feeling the pain of failure. He helps them get on their feet mentally. Dan is known for saying, “Take pride in exactly what it is you do, and remember it’s okay to fail as long as you don’t give up.”
We all face failures of one kind or another–times when our hopes are dashed by a disappointing event or performance. But even if we feel devastated by the way our life is going, we can remember Dan’s experience and not give up.
Author John Maxwell once said, “Life’s biggest failures are, in truth, glorious opportunities for personal growth and positive transformation.” I would put it this way: failures are opportunities for spiritual growth and divine transformation. Here’s what I mean:
I remember a time when I applied for a promotion in my job. As a matter of fact, I applied quite a few times and each time was rejected. I felt that others less qualified than I were achieving this advancement and I felt discouraged and jaded. I had deep bouts with envy and anger. There just seemed to be so many roadblocks in my career, appearing in the form of people who didn’t like me, and I began to feel increasingly inferior to others.
Around this time I heard Dan’s story, and while my experience seemed to be at the mercy of others instead of myself, I asked myself, “Is your life going to be defined by these disappointments, or will you choose to be defined by God as one of His beloved children?” This question demanded a mental pivot in how I viewed my life, so as I have done many times in the past, I opened my Bible for guidance. I found this passage, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3: 14).
To me this meant, “Are you going to be pushed around mentally by disappointment, or will you resolve to reach for the goal of Godlikeness by expressing His love, wisdom, creativity, patience and kindness?”
I remembered what a friend once told me– “No one is any better than another, but all of us can be better than we have been.” I had felt in such competition with others, and that because I hadn’t been promoted as they had, my life was less successful. Now I realized that I needed to acknowledge that my relationship with God was more important than any promotion, and that a successful life is one that expresses this love of God more fully each day.
The Bible also states, “Love never faileth” (I Cor. 13: 8). There is no competition in God’s love–only the opportunity for everyone to express it and feel God’s love in return. So I looked for opportunities to share God’s love with others.
I liked to think of this as “divine training” – striving to express more joy, selflessness, compassion and empathy in my work and relationships. I continued to work in my profession, and soon my career branched out into new opportunities. Eventually I did receive the promotion I had hoped for.
Accepting the fact that we are God’s important and respected child, we can prove that any failures we may face are just opportunities for spiritual growth and divine transformation.
©2016 Christian Science Committee on Publication for Illinois