Last year I took a handful of watercolor painting classes. The instructor, Anita Kimbler, would catch me hesitating on something and proclaim “It’s only paper!” I *knew* that. I knew nothing would be lost but a few cents of paper and a little bit of time. But it didn’t stop me from freezing up. Then, in my anxiety, I would overthink the painting and make color choices I would regret. I let the fear of failure take the fun out of trying something when there was very, very little at stake. Other times I would paint with reckless abandon. These were always the pieces I liked the most. These too, would be marred by mistakes. Whoops! That paint splatter wasn’t intentional! But in my free-spirited mood, I would embrace it and add more splatters to give it friends, or turn them into leaves falling. My failures taught me to be creative. My fear only ruined the fun.
There are other times, though, when my mistakes and failures have had higher stakes. When I was serving as RS president for my ward, I made some poor dating choices. One of those caused heartache for a sister I had been desperately trying to help. God turned that “paint splatter” into falling leaves, though. He not only helped me gain her forgiveness, He helped me become her friend and introduce her to her future husband.
Intellectually, I am deeply grateful for the mistakes and failures I’ve experienced. They have taught me much more than my successes and good fortune. But instinctually, I am ashamed of them, and often don’t try something for fear of failure.
But in the year of 2020, I shall seek the blessings and the lessons of failure! With any luck, I will show my children not to fear mistakes.
On many a trail, I’ve learned that a stumble may prevent a fall. Similarly, I love the conference talk where they were lost and prayed to know which road to take. They were inspired to take a road that quickly became a dead end. At first frustrated with the Lord, he later realized it was a mercy that the dead end gave him full confidence in the other route. Sometimes what seems to be a mistake is actually a valuable detour.
“O happy failure, from how many evils have you saved me!” -Saint Therese of Lisieux
In my day-to-day life, I am constantly asking “Am I failing them?” I lose my temper. Our scripture study is pitiful. What am I even feeding them? I have no idea how to discipline. Where will this current path of parenting lead them? Does RJ know how much I really love him? Am I nurturing our marriage? THIS IS NOT JUST PAPER, ANITA! These are our immortal souls! I need to stop obsessing over failure and have faith in the compounding effect of small efforts to improve every day. None of this is final. And although I am a parent, I’m not the One in control. There are unseen forces, both evil and divine, that are influencing us. God is using my mistakes to grow us. Satan is using them to paralyze us. But my mistakes and failures are not final. They are not being kept on a scorecard. The more I trust God, the more “all these things shall give thee experience and shall be for thy good.”
How am I dealing with the failures of my children? Am I instilling fear or teaching them to grow from it? When they mess up, I don’t want them to think “Mom is gonna be so mad.” I want their reaction to be “I need mom.”
My friend, yet another artist, Megan Schaugaard, posted something she learned about mistakes from her own mother. “It’s all a process – even the failed attempts aren’t worthless if they help us grow. (This painting that my mom did before I was born) It was hung in our house for as long as I can remember and is still on my parent’s wall today. If you look closely, she missed a letter in “beginning” But she didn’t toss it and call it worthless. I love that it still had a place on our wall regardless of the misspelled word. It reminds me that life isn’t perfect but that every step to get there is of value. It also helped me remember that though none of us are perfect, we are loved and still have a “place on the wall”. I dibs inheriting it!”
I currently have dozens of writing ideas in my drafts folder. They’re imperfect. They’re partially developed. And because of my fear of failure, they’ve sat there for months to years. Some of them have lost all meaning to me and I don’t even know where I was going with it when I abandoned it. I don’t vow to stop doing this, because that is unrealistic. But I vow to try and let the flawed, incomplete and underdeveloped ideas get out of ‘drafts’ and into ‘published’ more often. ITS ONLY (digital) PAPER! There is a place for it on the “wall”! The more I do with passion and the less I do with perfectionism, the more I will grow.
So WHO IS WITH ME? Lets get out there and FAIL IN 2020!!!!