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February 4, 2004
The voters have rendered their verdict, and I accept it, Joe Lieberman said this morning, pulling out of the Democratic primary competition. He is the third candidate to have done that during this phase of the process. Out of money and out of momentum, they must set aside a powerful dream, and they must do it in public. A sobering occupational hazard of politics.

I just about had my bags packed, a colleague says ruefully. She had been certain the interview at a prospective parish went well, could feel the mutual falling in love she had felt before. But they called someone else.

I gave a good audition, but I just wasn't right for the part, an actor tells me. This happens to him about three times a week. Sometimes more. If there is a profession that buffets the ego more than acting, I don't know what it is. It is not for sissies.

Somebody's got to lose if someone else wins. Most top spots can't be shared. More than anything else, it is fear of losing that prevents us for trying. People will see me fail. I will become pitiable.

Joe Lieberman isn't pitiable. Carol Mosely-Braun isn't pitiable. They are sharp-witted, gifted public servants. My friend the actor isn't pitiable: he's good. Really good. And the priest who was not called to the parish isn't pitiable. She's probably right: she would have been a good fit. She would have done a fine job.

People are so brave. They try, when they don't know in advance that they will succeed. They try even when they've lost before. They know themselves and they trust their gifts and they believe in them, and so they try again.

But it is not disloyal to a strong sense of calling to accept failure. Everyone fails sometimes. There is no shame in failing. Some of us won't even use the word "failure:" it has become a forbidden word in the universe of 24/7 cheer in which we're all supposed to live. You're not allowed to say "failed" and "failure." You're supposed to say something upbeat like "challenge" or "opportunity" instead.

But I say there's nothing wrong with failing honestly. I say that a failure doesn't sum up my life, but it's a dandy way to describe the end of a particular hope. I may have a failure -- and I have had many -- but that doesn't mean I am one.

Failure can signal the need to try harder. Or to do something else. To do what you are doing a different way. To stop doing one thing and start doing another. To respond to a hope still in its infancy, setting aside one that has stalled in its adolescence. Failure can be a message about ourselves, one we will benefit from hearing. Not every reversal of fortune we suffer arises from within us, but some do, at least in part. It's good to know which ones they are. We can't change them if we don't know. And if we subject to an analysis in which the foregone conclusion must be that we did nothing to bring it about, we won't get that crucial piece of information.

I might regret having failed, but I need never be ashamed of it. I can be proud of having gone all out, of having been brave enough to try and fail.
And then brave enough to admit that the current cause is now lost, and must be replaced by a new one. Failure is going as far as I can and then realizing that it is not far enough. And that now it is time to go somewhere else.
Copyright © 2022 Barbara Crafton
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