Last night I dreamed – blessed illusion-that I had a beehive here in my heart and that the golden bees were making white combs and sweet honey from my old failures. Verse from Antonio Machado Translated by Robert Bly
When I read these words in a book by John O’Donohue called Eternal Echoes, I committed the lines to memory and have recited and contemplated them since that first reading. In the last decade or so, during my times of deep inner reflection and healing, I seem to have made peace with my failures. Such peace, in fact, that I find it difficult to call them failures any longer. Forgiveness has graced me fully, a sure sign that I no longer sit in judgment of my past mishaps, unintentional hurts bestowed on others and my immaturity.
Failure is simply when we do not live by our own truth, values or potential. Sometimes it is confusing which one of these is the issue at hand. When we inadvertently hurt others or ourselves through cruel words or actions, through deceit or falsity, or by immature or unconscious behavior, we most likely can look at it later and dissect the process. Through this disentangling, we might see where we did not live by our values, where we did not speak our deep inner truth, or where we fell short of being our best selves. Understanding ourselves more deeply can come if we take the time to consider our transgressions, to follow up with appropriate apologies and to do what it takes to no longer repeat our behavior that is causing us to fall short of who we feel we can be.
In the sweet knowledge of failure comes the deeper lesson of life. Sitting in judgment of ourselves by wallowing in guilt or ignoring others calling to us about how we have hurt them, we lose our opportunity to learn important life lessons. These opportunities to learn life lessons will come again, surely as the sun will rise and set, we can count on repeating our troubles until we finally learn from them. One way you might prove this to yourself is by listening for the “why does this always happen to me?” or “how did this happen again?” or “doesn’t anybody get me?” Taking the time to learn our lessons means we are less likely to repeat past failures and more likely to do the important work of creating inner peace for our selves and making amends with others.
My referring to my first marriage as my failure lasted for many years. I held myself to high standards, sat in judgment of myself when I didn’t live up to those standards, and felt I had transgressed a sacred contract. Upon many years of reflection and self-forgiveness, I came to allow my immaturity, my lack of self-knowledge, my misconstruing of my more important values and my inability to admit where I went wrong right away. During that process of self-reflection I had to forgive myself again and again for not being more aware, more ready to speak up and more honest about the real me to all involved, particularly my ex-husband. And in the midst of all those transgressions there was much, much good. Today I find myself with three incredible relationships with my adult children and the ability to look my ex-husband in the eye, smile, and know we did the best we could with the family we created in this world for a time. How can this be called a failure now? That would certainly do all of us a disservice and dishonor that part of my past.
Deep self-forgiveness is essential to our inner life and internal peace. Internal peace will be reflected in a world of outer peace, beginning with each of our individual worlds of relationships. Our failures are simply pointers to where we can grow and come to understand our full potential. Not using them for this is a waste of time and energy. Find your lesson in your so-called failure and then let it all go. The lesson will remain in your heart, making sweet honey for you and those you care about.