Archive for the ‘failure’ Category

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

Luke 15:20

This is the high point of the Biblical story of the prodigal son.

The father welcomes the wayward son home.

Who do we identify with in the story? It’s easy to think of ourselves as the prodigal son seeing that we have all had our times away from God. It’s also easy to think of ourselves as the older brother. We have all been jealous when someone else got the attention that we needed or felt we deserved.

Of course, we are both the prodigal son and the older brother, but as Henri Nouwen has pointed out we are also the father.

One of the great pathways to safety with ourselves is in welcoming ourselves home. To forgive oneself, to love oneself, to hug and kiss oneself with the affection and safety of a good father, we all need that.

Looking back is helpful to see that our lives were led. God was always there. When we went away he followed us, and when we came back he was right there also. Our mistakes are forgiven by him in Christ.

The question is: Can we forgive ourselves?

This is not always easy. We must work at it. We must say, “Yes I am loved. Yes, I am forgiven. Yes, I am accepted. I am in the family of God.”

We must see that sometimes we are a harsh, judgmental father; we are the one standing in our own way of being home. We are the one with judgment of ourselves. We are the one who needs to become the gentle, compassionate father. We must model ourselves after God, the perfect father and gently love ourselves as the needy child.

Do this: Fill yourself with compassion for yourself. Run to yourself. Embrace yourself. Drop the negative narrative about yourself. It’s incorrect. Welcome your whole self home, just as God does.

Our country is divided and not simply by the Mississippi.

Racism, political perspectives, gender, immigration, our President, religion, foreign policy, climate control  — we are even divided on how to fight about all this.

It’s a fight. So how do we fight?

Do we call each other out? Publicly, online, in social media? Or do we call each other “in,” privately, “Let’s have a talk,” then hug.

Loretta Ross wrote an article in August published in the New York Times,”I’m a Black Feminist. I Think Call-Out Culture Is Toxic.”

She wrote the following, “Call-outs make people fearful of being targeted. People avoid meaningful conversations when hypervigilant perfectionists point out apparent mistakes, feeding the cannibalistic maw of the cancel culture. Shaming people for when they “woke up” presupposes rigid political standards for acceptable discourse and enlists others to pile on. Sometimes it’s just ruthless hazing.”

“We can change this culture. Calling-in is simply a call-out done with love. Some corrections can be made privately.”

Karla Thomas writing  for Medium in an article called, ‘Mad About Call-out Culture?: Stop Centering White Cultural Norms & Feelings” disagreed. She says there is a clear need to publicly call out wrong, loud and clear, in order to reform our culture and move toward fairness.

Interrupting racially offensive behavior, (or any other –ism,) in the same forum or elevated forum and at the same volume as the aggression was made, is paramount to ensuring that anyone from the oppressed group in ear or eye shot knows that those transgressions were seen and will not go unaddressed.”

“It is critical here to realize, that when an aggressor makes a transgression then is called out, and the rebuttal is, “well you could have told me in a nicer manner” or “it’s rude to call someone racist,” there is a clear and purposeful choice to avoid the message that points out their racism and to focus on the messenger.” 

Both make good points. The articles would be worth your time. They were published in August and are easy to find.

How do we heal our divide, particularly over what divides us the most.

Call people “in” and work together, that is for sure needed. Call out abuse, lies, hate, racism, gender inequality — that’s needed too. We must never silence oppressed, harmed voices.

Let’s talk about racism. The articles focused on that. For you who are white and think racism is not a big deal for you, I’d encourage you to read White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo. Her books are worth your time. School yourself! Open your minds.

What do you think?

I think racism is a huge problem in the United States and we need get to talking more and better about this soon. This is important. We better take some action to bring about change. This matters now!

What would Jesus have to say to us about all this. He sure did some publicly calling out of wrong. He was ruthless on the people who thought they were the best class, better than others, but then he defended the women called out for adultery. Jesus always defended the oppressed. He always confronted the powerful, privileged elite. What does that tell you?

Wisdom knows when to say what! And wisdom chooses the most powerful and effective way to say it.

Feel free to post a comment. Just click the talk bubble at the top of this post and comment there.


Vivas to those who have fail’d!
And to those whose war-vessels sank in the sea!
And to those themselves who sank in the sea!
And to all generals that lost engagements, and all overcome heroes!
And the numberless unknown heroes equal to the greatest heroes known!

Walt Whitman

In the United States we have some fairly standard ways of defining success and failure. Success is a good position. Success is a good salary. Success is power. Success is being the boss, the big fish.

Success in America is also often defined by vibrancy. It is being healthy — on the youngish side — strong, beautiful.

Success is also things. It is stuff — good clothing, a good house, a good neighborhood, a luxury car, expensive jewelry, a brag-worthy vacation.

And success in the U.S. is people, families, spouses, marriages, children. It includes “our people,” as if we could still own them  — housekeepers, maids, lawyers, shoppers, perhaps a trailing retinue of admiring and secretly jealous friends, perhaps some fleshly conquests.

Failure — it is not having these things.

By such definitions many of the people that I know are not successes.

Not to vilify the middle class or the wealthy — there are numerous super excellent people with stuff  and fluff and family enough — but many of the smartest, bravest, hardiest, kindest, funniest people I know are unemployed, or formerly employed. They are not wealthy. They are old. They are moms, grandmas, widows, divorced, sick, perhaps lonely. They live in rooms in small houses. They live in small apartments, in other people’s houses — in less than desirable neighborhoods —  some are in and out of hospitals. They have little, they know relatively few people in the grand scheme of things, they run nothing. People they pay do not prop them up.

And yet, and yet, just yet — how lovely they are.

Bill Holm has put it eloquently. The sunk, lost, unimportant, Whitman’s “numberless” — they play a kind of beautiful music. They play the gorgeous, melodic, halting and yet lovely “music of failure.” Perhaps they are failures as defined by our pre-paid, power-laid, beauty-bade, family-weighed American dream. But when these lesser lights are judged by their resilience, their good humor, their kindness, their godliness, their grit and their gumption — they play gorgeous music.

Bill has written that the “music of failure“ sounds “like Bach” to him, played by a so-called “failed” family friend.  Then he asks, “What does it sound like to you?”

To me it sounds like the voices of some of my most brave, fun, resilient friends.