Permission to Fail

A friend of mine had been in a dark place for many, many years. He had been struggling with addiction, depression, and isolation. I had been worried about him for quite some time.

And then slowly, little by little, over the course of a year, I started to notice positive changes in him. He got healthier, happier, and began to interact more with people. It was delightful to see.

One day I took him out to lunch, which was in itself a monumental change. Generally he preferred not to leave the house, and therefore turned down all invitations. For a while there, he seemed to have an almost vampire-like aversion to sunlight.

“Okay,” I said over my hamburger, “what’s changed?” I knew he had been going to a 12 step program and seeing a counselor, but he’d tried that before, and it had never “taken”. I was dying to know what was different this time.

He then laid out his theory to me. It occurred to him one day that the thing that kept him paralyzed, kept him from even trying to get better, was fear of failure. But then he realized that if he tried and failed, he wouldn’t be any worse off than he was at that very moment. So he gave himself permission to fail. That meant all he needed to do was try, and that felt like a lot less pressure to him.

Sentimental old fool that I am, this actually brought tears to my eyes. Because I was so proud of my friend. Because his theory made so much sense to me. Because suddenly anything seemed possible.

My friend is a work in progress. Aren’t we all? But the most important thing is that he is, indeed, progressing.



7 thoughts on “Permission to Fail

  1. lyn sutton

    Permission to fail? I set out to fail and succeed every time. Ok, it’s an easy win but now I’m not a total failure…and there’s the chance I’ll fail to fail and inadvertently succeed…which is a convoluted reverse psychology that even I’m having trouble following….I think I need to give myself permission to succeed now…hee hee
    But I am glad your friend had such a successful epiphany and shared it with you and you with us.

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