Failure isn’t so bad if it doesn’t attack the heart. Success is all right if it doesn’t go to the head. ~Grantland Rice
Let’s just get this out up front — I’ve never been a big fan of Valentine’s Day.
There, I said it. Bah Humbug.
It’s the day that we are asked to measure ourselves against an unrealistic and false measuring stick. Did you get flowers? Are you going to dinner? Valentine’s day screams, ARE YOU IN A RELATIONSHIP!!!
And even when you can say “Why yes I am!” You are faced with the follow up question “is it a great relationship?” And how are you going to answer that? Considering there are no perfect relationships. At least not kind you see advertised in magazines and on TV.
I have an aversion to Red Carpets. The scream fake reality. These people are special. They have it all. No they don’t!
Bear with me as we go back in time a moment.
When I was growing up our newspaper carried a daily advice column called Dear Abby. Abby had an equally famous sister, Ann Landers and both wrote Â advice columns in newspapers publishedÂ around the world. People would sent letters by the thousands and they would select some of these and published their advice. Â This went on for decades.
In an interview Ann Landers was asked what question was most frequently asked by her readers. Her answer was telling.
She said people want to know, “What’s wrong with me?”
This morning I happened to read James chapters 2-3. James spends a lot of time discussing favoritism. It occurred to me that this is the reason I’ve never been a fan of Valentine’s Day. It screams favoritism.
Do you have a wife? Do you have a girlfriend? Do you have a date? Did you get flowers? Is he taking you to dinner? Gosh, did you at least get a card? You did?Â Good.
Everyone else can ask yourself, “What’s wrong with me”.
A lot of people I know, and a lot of people you know, are asking that question as Valentines Day approaches. And it’s just not right. It’s not right because it is based on the false premise that success is defined by having a life that compares favorably the FTD flower commercial. The diamond necklace commercial.
Life isn’t measured by a relationship. I’ve been married 28 years. It is a total blessing. But my wife and I both realize that our marriage doesn’t define who we are or whether we are successful, or special, or anything else. It just means that over time we have learned patience and forgiveness; that we have each been blessed with a cheerleader who wants to help the other grow.
We all fail. It doesn’t define us — or at least it shouldn’t.
Erma BombeckÂ became a great writer of comedy. But before that, when she went off to college to learn to be a writer, her guidance counselor advised her “Forget about writing”.
She refused to listen.
She eventually graduated with a degree in English and began her career as a writer. She was initially hired to write obituaries and stories for the women’s page.
But she didn’t consider that failure, just a stepping stone. Over the next 30 years she wrote a syndicated column carried in over 900 newspapers. Â She also published 15 books.
Along the way she failed many times but had a keen understanding that, taken properly, failure is a stepping stone on the road to positive things.
So on Valentine’s Day let me share Erma Bombeck’s perspective on failure, keeping in mind that she was a breast cancer survivor who eventually died at age sixty-nine from kidney failure.
“I speak at college commencements, and I tell everyone I’m up there and they’re down there, not because of my successes, but my failures. Then I proceed to spin all of them off–a comedy record album that sold two copies in Beirutâ€¦a sitcom that lasted about as long as a donut in our houseâ€¦a Broadway play that never saw Broadway. Book signings where I attracted two people: one who wanted directions to the restroom and the other who wanted to buy the desk.
What you have to tell yourself is, “I’m not a failure. I failed at doing something.” There’s a big differenceâ€¦Personally and career-wise, it’s been a corduroy road. I’ve buried babies, lost parents, had cancer and worried over kids. The trick is to put it all in perspectiveâ€¦and that is what I do for a living.”
So on this Valentine’s Day I hope you will keep things in perspective. If you are going to dinner and receive that diamond necklace enjoy it, but remember it doesn’t define who you are or your self-worth.
And if you are looking around with past regrets or wondering why you don’t have anyone to celebrate with, that also doesn’t define who you are, or your Â self-worth.
And most of all, for those who have to deal with regrets and hurts from the past, keep in mind that “You’re not a failure. You failed at doing something.”
That doesn’t make you special, it makes you human. We all fail, the real question is how can we turn it into a positive stepping stone.
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