“Failure does not necessarily imply a mistake. If we have held our standard high, bravely fought a good fight for the right, held our part courageously against heavy opposition and have finally seen the citadel of our great hope taken by superior force, by overwhelming conditions, or sapped and undermined by jealousy, envy or treachery we have met with failure, it is true, but—we have not made a mistake.
The world may condemn us for this non-success. What does the silly, babbling, unthinking world, that has not seen our heroic efforts, know about it? What does it matter what the world thinks, or says, if we know we have done our best? Sometimes men fail nobly because they have the courage to forego triumph at the cost of character, honour, truth and justice.”
Had I read this ten years ago I don’t think I would have appreciated the profound truth of its message. My own quest for a deeper understanding of the truth, of my purpose, began at a young age. Looking back I realize that even though I made a number of mistakes growing up, the desire to know the truth and to have a conscious, working knowledge of my purpose never wavered. Looking at this passage now, however, I appreciate Mr. Jordan’s wisdom and timeless perspective on the difference between success and failure in truth, which can be quite different from what you might think when judging the surface appearance of an outcome.
When you live righteously – when you do the right thing at the right time because it is the right and noble thing to do – the outcome is largely irrelevant. Ten years ago I would say that such a view is tantamount to denial and a pathetic rationalization, but when you dig a little deeper and come to know the truth, you realize that maintaining your integrity in relation to the truth is all that matters at the end of the day.
If you trade your integrity, honor and truth for a brief moment of fame or a flash of success, you will have your reward. You might feel good for minutes, days or maybe even years, but when you sell your soul in exchange for security, recognition, comfort or any other outer object of your affectation, you self-inflict a wound that can be very slow to heal.
You can fail nobly. If your progress in the revelation of the truth of you is thwarted by the reactions of the mob, you have failed with dignity. If you are rejected from a circle of friends because you maintained your integrity in the face of some challenge and they didn’t, you have failed with honor. If you fought for what was right while those around you succumbed to their fears, jealousies, self-concerns or betrayed what they professed to know of the truth, you have tasted of a success that only those aligned with the truth enjoy.
Shakespeare once wrote that “Hell is empty and all the devils are here.” Staying true to the truth in a world gone mad is no cakewalk, but I doubt very highly that you were born on this earth to be a baker. You were born to be a butler, in the sense of the original word boteillier, which meant, simply, “cup-bearer.” You are here to be the chief steward of the world you center, capable of serving the wine of life to all who will receive of your service. Many will refuse. Call it failure if you must, but know that if you continue to give in ways that bless and uplift others, you are a true success, no matter how it ends up looking to the petty judgmental devils round about.
Photo by Alev Takil on Unsplash.