FEAR OF FAILURE, FEAR OF INADEQUACIES BEGONE!
Did you ever wonder why some folks won’t even bother trying to be great, even though they have all the talents and opportunity to be great? Sometimes, the reason is the fear of failure. People are so afraid of falling, they don’t try climbing.
“Men fall in order to rise,” states the Zohar. All people fall at some time. The difference between a good person and a bad one is how they react to their falls. The wicked fall seven times and get up six times. The righteous fall down seven times and get up eight. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone goes through slip-sliding times. Sometimes, it is even necessary.
“Because I have fallen, I was able to stand up. If I wouldn’t have sat in darkness, I wouldn’t notice the light.” Have you ever backed up to take a great leap forward? Sometimes, a fall allows us to leap a bit ahead, to see greatness all the more. You’ll fall? So what? We all will, at some point. Just make sure to get up! You got back up when you were toddler and tried walking the first time and fell smack on your rear, didn’t you? That is why you are able to walk as an adult, because you got up after a fall and learned how to walk. Spiritually, we will fall on our fannies at times. It just means that we need to get back up and walk again.
There are times people give up their spiritual quests when racked with guilt. “I’ve done something so wrong, lost an opportunity, lost, lost, lost!” Such guilt is not healthy. Rabbi Gedaliah Schorr, ZT”L explained why our enemies would always try to take away Rosh Chodesh observance. Rosh Chodesh is a symbol that shows us the power of being MeChadesh, of renewing ourselves, moving past our falls and mistakes. The moon starts big, wanes and almost disappears…then reappears, round and full again. We will sometimes not be the greatest we can be. We might almost fade away. Yet, we can always start again and build up to our full capacity again. Taking away that concept makes us wallow in pasts, which is exactly what our enemies wished for us. A person wallowing in guilt is like a man caught in a sinkhole of mud. He becomes mired, unable to move on down his path.
We refer to G-d as “Mikva Yisroel“. Just as a Mikva purifies, Hashem purifies. Mikva is from the same root as Tikva, hope. We always have hope for future greatness, because Hashem purifies us, cleanses away our past mistakes. Don’t ever give up in life because of a sense of guilt. As Reb Nachman stated, “If you believe you can destroy something, believe you can fix it.”
Yehuda made a mistake, admitted to it, moved past it. Dovid HaMelech made a mistake, admitted to it and moved past it. Both of these men will be the forefathers of Moshiach. Think of how profound a statement that makes to us. Mistakes do not preclude you from greatness, as long as you admit to the mistakes and move on past them!
Rabbi Akiva once walked into Yeshiva in the best of moods. “I was able to do the greatest kindness today,” he told his fellow students. “I found a Mais Mitzvah, a dead body, just strewn out on the field. There was no way I was going to leave the dead body there, so up on my back I heaved the corpse and carried it to the nearest cemetery and buried it.”
“Murderer,” said the other students. “You did a wrong thing every step you took with the dead body. A Mais Mitzva acquires its ground. You were supposed to bury the dead man right where you found him.”
A less wise person would give up at this point. How ludicrous to do a hard task, drag a corpse on one’s back for heaven only knows how many miles, and then be told you got it wrong! A lesser man would throw up his hands and say, “That’s the last time I do any kind deed, if for every time there is something wrong with what I’ve done.” Rabbi Akiva, however, was a greater man than most, wiser in his response to setbacks like this. Rabbi Akiva was overjoyed. He had learned the rules. Now, if he came across a dead man, he’d know exactly what to do! We, too, can be like Rabbi Akiva and use our mistakes as learning tools.
There are also times people give up because they don’t see the gains they are making. “What’s the use,” they complain, “I can’t see myself accomplishing great things. All I see are the struggles and the effort. I’m not seeing results.”
In the Torah, there is a list of places where the Jews camped and how they traveled in the desert. Ultimately, the Jews were journeying toward the land of Israel. That was their end goal. However, we must always remember, it is not just the end result that has value. The journey itself has value…which is why the Torah saw fit to list the journey stops.
Rabbi Dessler explains that everybody is born in midst of things and dies in midst of things. You cannot see to the end of time. You can’t even see to the end of your own life. How can you expect to always see results? Results are happening, even though you might not see it in the here and now. There are countless stories of results that took generations to come forth.
Think of the story of Rus. Here she goes ahead, converts, follows her mother-in-law’s directions, marries Boaz…and is left a widow the next morning. What did she gain by doing the right thing? Could she see far into the future and see Dovid? Could she see even further into the future and see Moshiach? The gains for the Jewish people from Rus doing the right thing are immeasurable. Yet, the results were completely hidden from Rus’s generation. It seemed as if she had gained nothing by her hard choices. Don’t worry, if you don’t see the results of your hard work. They are not always instantly apparent. Your children might see it. Or sometimes your grandchildren. Apparent or not, results do happen. They just sometimes take a while to blossom.
There is a question as to whether the main commandment of lighting the Menorah is one of lighting or one of making sure it stays lit. We’re taught the main commandment is to light it. You have to do your work and not worry about the outcome. Don’t always expect to see results. Just provide the spark to start the flame burning.
When Hashem commanded the building of the Mishkan, Moshe was mystified at the ordered task. “How was it possible for humans to build a structure as G-d’s abode,” he questioned, ‘if we’re told that the whole of heavens cannot contain Him?” How can you provide a finite place of rest for the Infinite? Seeing Moshe’s confusion, G-d clarified. “According to YOUR abilities I am asking,” said Hashem, “not according to MY ability.” This lesson is appropriate for each of our lives. Each person is only obligated to do as much as his or her ability allows. The maximum of our talents and tools with a willing heart dedicated to G-d. Not fearing failure. Not wallowing in past mistakes. And believing our best is adequate. That is enough to make us really special people.