Knowing the history of Abraham Lincoln’s career makes the above comment meaningful: Lincoln failed in business at age 31. Defeated for the legislature at 32. Again failed in business at 34. Sweetheart died at 35. Had a nervous breakdown at 36. Defeated in election at 38. Defeated for Congress at 43. Defeated for Congress at 46. Defeated for Congress at 48. Defeated for Senate at 55. Defeated for Vice President at 56. Defeated for Senate at 58. Elected President at age 60.
More remarkable than the rate of failure is the undying assertion of courage and persistence regardless of previous circumstances. Failing with contentment allows you to choose to try again. This kind of attitude is critical in order to move beyond any failure we create or experience. It is particularly meaningful today in light of my own personal failure.
More often than not, my emotional breakdowns catch me off guard. Ironically this seems to still hold true, even with all the many days of positivity practice I have had; I still can’t quite sense the edge. Often, these breakdowns are created mindlessly about small things that don’t deserve all the attention they get or the mess they create.
A middle school mix-up with my daughter’s cell phone should have been a small blip. Instead after a couple of hours of dealing with Verizon and a lack of follow-through by a distracted 7th grader, I lost my temper. I over-reacted and asked impatient questions in a loud tone of voice to a child I barely knew.
It wasn’t really all about the phone. Under normal circumstances I would have maintained my composure and figured out a solution. Instead I was faced with the culmination of a massive professional and internal transition, lack of sleep and too many problems to solve, which elicited the worst part of me. It was the part of me that all this loveology and positivity work is meant to civilize.
I am astonished by the power of my weakness and aggression that I mostly maintain on good behavior. The truth about me is that I am completely imperfectly human, with great aspirations to get over the vestiges of judgment and unkindness that still exist in me.
I have come to these places often enough through my past to know that the only way out is through forgiveness. Catherine Ponder wrote,
“When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free.” This is true about our relationship to the ugly parts of ourselves.
It is where forgiveness has to begin. As Ghandi reminds us: “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” ‘I am sorry’ is one of the most powerful phrases in our language.