Human beings, or human doings? Which are we? There are a lot of forces in our culture that push us to be human doings; to define ourselves by our accomplishments and successes, and to shun times when we are quiet, reflecting or risking failure. Family members and workplaces may send the message that we are valued only when we live up to their expectations. For human doings, self-esteem is all tied up in knots with expectations, accomplishment and success. Human doings feel bad about themselves when they don’t hit the mark and feels uneasy when they do. Failure is always lurking around the next corner. As a human doing, life is full of pressure to stay busy avoiding failure and showing everyone what they can do..
Standing for and acting on their core values is what supports self-esteem for human beings. Self-esteem is related to how human beings treat others and themselves. Human beings’ self-esteem is not so tied to achievement. Human beings do achieve. In fact, because they know failure is inevitable and normal, and because they won’t be devastated if it happens, they are free to pursue their goals without undue fear.
Can we have success without failure? I posted a photo here of hat that I’m knitting. It’s a hard pattern for me and I’ve been an exemplary failure at it! I’ve ripped it out and restarted it so many times, I should have been able to finish two of them by now! In the process of failing, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned how to stay patient and accepting when such serious errors happen, and how to let false starts increase my skill and knowledge. I’ve learned through trial and error to master a stitch that is very poorly described in every video and written piece I’ve found. Finally I am succeeding. This success builds on what I’ve learned through a series of failures.
Yes, it takes time to allow ourselves to be human beings. It takes time to slow down, reflect, regroup and muster the persistence to try one more time. It takes time to calm ourselves down when things get frustrating, and time to undo a mistake and start over. Perhaps human doings are a better fit in our hurry-up, achievement oriented culture, but human beings are the ones best equipped to ultimately succeed.
Read more about these ideas in Jim Taylor’s Psychology Today post, Parenting: Raise A Human Being, Not A Human Doing.
Ministerial intern Sara Gillespie offers another take on failure. Her sermon begins about 10 minutes into the video.