Failing is an Option – Now What?

“You passed.” Those words held so much meaning to me. All the months of studying, attending extra classes, and worrying had culminated into those words, “You passed.” I could check the exam off my list toward becoming licensed as a counselor in the state of Florida. This examination had loomed over my head since graduation last December. Emotions like relief and unbelief flooded through me.

“Oh, wait” the proctor continued. “On the second section you needed 115 and you only made 113. I’m sorry, I was wrong, you failed.” As she handed me the paper I saw the word FAIL in capital letters and bold print at the top of the page.

“I failed?” In 30 seconds I had gone from the joy of victory, to the agony of defeat. I failed…all the months of studying, attending extra classes, and worrying now felt like they had been in vain. I headed toward my car. I could not drive home fast enough, to run to the sanctuary of my bedroom to be alone and cry.

And I cried until I had a headache.

Failure stinks!

As a counselor I help people process emotions and feelings that come from feeling like a failure. Many people struggle with the thought “I’m not good enough.” How was I going to process my own agony and feelings of failure?  In this moment of deep distress and disappointment, I let the pain work its way through me so I could heal and move on.

Here are steps for dealing with pain: 

  1. Admit you are in pain.
  2. Allow yourself to feel the pain. Do not stuff it but feel every inch of it. Many times it feels like a physical pain in your heart. It is difficult and scary to feel it. But this is a crucial step to healing your soul.
  3. It’s time to forgive if the pain is associated with a person: 
  • Forgive the person(s) who have hurt you. This person may be you.
  • Express out loud how their actions made you feel.
  • Intentionally forgive the actions of the person who hurt you.
  • Ask God to forgive them and release them into His care.
  • Spend time in worship and focusing on God.
  • Ask the Lord to fill you with His peace, joy, and love.

It is hard to explain, but after going through this process (and it took several days) I emerged with interesting feelings…hope and optimism. I decided that failure is an option, but how it defines me is my choice. And I determined this test would not mark me as a failure.

I guess she was right! I did pass…but not in the way I originally anticipated. Therefore, I chose to keep that paper that highlighted the word FAIL in bold and capitalized letters. I did not shred it. I did not throw it in the trash. Nope!

I laminated it!

It is a testimony to making choices about who I say I am! And to who God says I am….an overcomer, successful, and strong (Romans 8:37).

My clients are the testimony to my calling to become a Licensed Mental Health Counselor. Observing and celebrating in their victories cements the calling on my life to counsel.

Though failure stinks, allowing it to shut me down would be the bigger tragedy.

I am grateful to say I will take that test again! And next time, pass or fail, I will still be an overcomer, successful and strong.

And that, my friends, I have decided, is the best option!

Sandra