When Failure Isn’t

by Alyson Redford

So often my balance between important things and urgent things gets skewed, not always by choice but by necessity, and then I feel like I failed. But what if I didn’t? What if I am evaluating the wrong things? 

Several years ago when the new year rolled around I was tired of making goals and dropping them. I had heard something at church or in conference, I cannot remember anymore what it was, so I made only one goal: Do a little better every day. It was a great goal. Totally achievable. I could always do better in something: dishes, school, schedule, cleaning, staying calm, expressing love, reaching out to a friend, writing in my journal, wiping out a drawer. Yet, it just needed to be a little better. I didn’t have to take all afternoon rearranging something. I didn’t need a lot of planning. Most of the time it was a spur of the moment thing that I would take a second to focus on. As I did this everything got better without the stress or pressure. If I had a bad day and everything got dropped – no problem. The next day I just got a little better and caught up without worry. I kept this goal for the next few years and New Years always felt wonderful because, more often than not, I had done well at doing a little better every day. 

Then two years ago I had an unexpected break. Enough that I already had feelings of accomplishment from my impending success. Three of my children were off doing things and I was left for the fall semester with only two at home. I think to myself, “Hallelujah! I will finally have everything planned and time to give individual attention. I will get so much done!” (Hysterical laughter should go here.) This was my “worst” year ever. In-laws with babies moved in, stuff with gone children exploded, I was dealing with a lot of negative consequences of other people’s choices. Emotionally every day seemed worse than the one before. I did more things everyday but less got done. School was almost totally dropped. My two at home got less attention than ever before. Feelings of accomplishment and success were nowhere on the horizon. Epic fail was all I could think about my efforts of the year. My children were surely ruined. 

In Persuasion Jane Austen says that as women at home “. . . our feelings prey upon us. . .” and that is what often happened to me as thoughts of the year made their way through my mind. One day I was blessed to have a tender mercy of the Lord. I realized the many good things that had come from the situation. My children at home had spent the time together becoming friends. They got on better than any other year. They loved each other and supported each other. They enjoyed each other. They learned to focus on others. They had compassion and attention for me. They noticed service opportunities that they acted on because of the babies in the home. They learned that our actions affect others no matter how we feel in the moment. 

I was also reminded that one of the things I wanted my children to learn more than anything else was to love the scriptures. This was the one thing I didn’t drop and maybe because our usual style was changed due to time constraints it was a favorite part of the day for the children. They were excited to begin and when it was time to stop they always begged to continue. Seriously!

I didn’t fail! I know this because our family all learned the things the Lord wanted us to at that time and from those experiences. Catching up in school didn’t take long, challenges were overcome, and we are better individuals and family because of it. 

As we go through each school year we can all avoid having “our feelings prey upon us” by doing a little better every day, noticing the tender mercies, recognizing what the Lord is teaching us, and focusing on our path as individuals in God’s plan. Richard G. Scott put it this way, “Our Heavenly Father did not put us on earth to fail but to succeed gloriously.”