We expect great athletes, and great people to succeed. But what do we expect of a great person when they fail?

It’s easy to applaud, and to receive applause when a great one reaches their goal. But what happens after a great one makes a mistake? Or worse, when it is discovered that they  cheated to get there? Or when their sportsmanship on the field is found to not line up with their performance in private relationships at home? Or that their roll-model on court does not match their roll-model off court?

Character is not only proven by how a winner responds. It is proven by how he loses. It is proven even more profoundly by how he fails… when the disclosure of a private mess or a bad choice in life tarneshes the great public reputation.

Some forms of failure that come to mind with ready public examples:

  • Failure when she reached for something big and missed it.
  • Failure when he got something big, but cheated to get it.
  • Failure when he did what was right, but was blamed for doing wrong.
  • Failure when she tried to do right, but accidentally caused a great harm.
  • Failure because he gave in to fear and gave up too soon.

Everyone is human, and will likely experience several forms of failure along the course of life. It is not in the lack of mistakes that makes a remarkable person. It is in his response to his own failure that can make even a fallen man heroic- even when the public does not notice or seem to value the response right now. The good character of a person is not best determined by his lack of mistakes, but better told by his response to his own failures, even when no one will see it.

Some responses to failure I admire and would like to have in myself:

  • I take ownership of what I truly believe was my responsibility and where I failed.
  • I take intiative to acknowledge to the team or to those affected what was my responsibility and my failure.
  • I don’t look to hide behind others, or force them to accept their own blame- I let them own their own in their own time. My grace and patience just might make it easier for them to be willing to own it.
  • Instead of self-pity or whining against the circumstances, I look for what I can learn and change in myself, in what I can change in my circumstances and apply it to next time.
  • I am a solution-finder, not a complainer. I look to understand and have compassion for the others within the equation of my failure to see how I can help them and myself not repeat the same mistake again. How can we all succeed next time?

It takes courage to pursue great things that have great risk of failure attached to them. It takes even greater courage to get back up after a failure, to face the consequences deserved or un-undeserved, and get back in the game, even when the reputation has to be rebuilt. The wonderful thing is that the reputation will be rebuilt, that good character will be made or proven, just by the very act of being willing to rebuilt it.

It doesn’t take courage to fail. It takes courage to get back up.

If for nothing or no one else, it is worth the sense of honor to do what is right in the aftermath of a wrong- mine or someone else’s. I highly value the inner peacefulness of being able to go to be at night with a clean heart, even if someone out there still thinks I stink. Honor is worth protecting. Fortunately, honor is not dependent on making no mistakes, but on how I respond to mistakes- mine or someone else’s. In this way, honor is always available to me no matter what happens in life.

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