Monday, November 19, 2007

The Challenge of Failure

I've been struggling with the concept that all challenges are tailor-made for us, and are always for the best. Intellectually I accept this. It all seems so logical to me: I believe in G-d, I believe in Torah from Sinai, I believe that G-d cares about me, and I believe that everything that happens is from G-d. I believe that G-d is the ultimate goodness so everything that happens to me and my family and friends and nation is ultimately good, even if I don't understand why.

So why do I get so frustrated and angry with things? And I'm talking about little things, not big things. My friend's metastatic cancer - I can take with equanimity. My 8 year old laying on the floor and refusing to listen - I totally lose it. (Sometimes. I'm working on it.)

I started to read (in English) Rav Shalom Arush’s In the Garden of Emuna. The book is translated by Rabbi Lazer Brody (see his LazerBeams blog) and it's amazing. Rav Arush does not try to explain why one should have emuna, but how to strengthen one's emuna and the book is blowing me away.

Rav Arush emphasizes that we all have our mission on Earth, and everything that happens to us is Hashem guiding us on our mission and helping us to reach our goal, our tikkun.

I'm only about 60 pages into the book, but it has had a profound impact on me and I recommend it very highly.

One conclusion I've reached, after lots of discussion with people wiser and more experienced than I, is that we are not meant to overcome some challenges. We are meant to fail. Because "success" or "failure" is not the true goal of the challenge Hashem is giving us.

In basic training for the US Marines, I am told, they are given a mission: they have five minutes to get a mortally "wounded" soldier up a huge hill to the waiting helicopters for evacuation. To make a long story short, the conditions make it impossible to succeed. The point of the exercise is not whether the soldiers succeed or not. The point of the mission is how they handle failure. Do they collapse? Do they give up? Do they melt down? Or do they keep their heads and keep going? It's their REACTIONS that are being tested, not their success or failure.

Another excellent example of a challenge that cannot be overcome is the Star Trek Star Fleet Acadamy exercise called The Kobayashi Maru. Although this is fictional, it perfectly represents what really does happen in life. We are frequently faced with no-win situations. What do you do, for example, when you have to put three kids to bed at the same time, and they ALL want you to read a story, but no one is willing to share. You have to read one story, to one child, in that child's bed, without any other child listening. Each child needs that. They need it! But you are one person. It's a no-win situation at that moment.

So our job, our mission, what Hashem wants from us at that moment is to not lose our cool. To find a creative way to cope, and to be prepared to cope. To work on ourselves so that we don't lose our cool, and to accept without giving up. To not beat ourselves up because we are not perfect and better than perfect.

And of course to believe that this is what Hashem expects from us.


Naomi said...

Your writing is wonderful! So glad to know my buddy from way back when turned out brilliant. I guess I have good taste. :)

Re: your question to why you freak over little things: I beat myself up over the same thing. But in the end, we have to remember that we are human, so why would we expect ourselves to behave any differently. lol

I'm thinking of your and your family...

aoc gold said...


(Part I)

Who has seen the wind?

Neither I nor you;

But when the leaves hang trembling,

The wind is passing through.

(Part II)

Who has seen the wind?

Neither you nor I;
But when the trees bow down their heads,

The wind is passing by.

~by wow powerleveling