One of life’s most difficult lessons is failure. We have all experienced it at one time or another. The upside of failure is that it can be a great teacher. The downside of failure is that it always hurts and is embarrassing! If we are willing, we can learn a lot from failure. There are many different kinds of failure, some more devastating than others. However, the most damaging of all failure is moral failure. Let me explain.
Years ago, I had the opportunity to meet Fred Smith. He was a great motivational speaker and author of many books. His granddaughter was one of my students when I was a school teacher in Dallas, Texas. One day he came to the school and gave me an autographed copy of one of his books. He told me that his granddaughter really enjoyed my classes and had spoken very highly of me. Of course, I was very flattered and humbled to even get to meet him. But, the fact that he gave me an autographed copy of one of his books was the icing on the cake. I still have it to this day.
In his book, Mr. Smith pointed out that the great failures in life – the ones that do the most damage – the ones that have the worst and most long-lasting impact on society – are moral failures. Think for a minute as I mention a few public figures: Richard Nixon, Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, the Keating Five, Ivan Boesky, Bernie Madoff, Bill Clinton…the list goes on and on. Please know that I am not mentioning them to cast blame, for none of us is completely without fault. We have all had some degree of moral failure in our own life, whether it was stealing a grape in the grocery store or telling a “little white lie.” I mention them because they are more notable, public examples. Think about the moral failure that they experienced and what it did to their own character, reputation and future. Think also about the impact that each of their failures had on our society.
Many of us are fascinated by the Olympic Games every four years. Those who win a bronze, silver or gold metal go home in honor and celebration. And even those who do not win a medal go home proud to have participated in the oldest and most prestigious competition in the world. However, some are eliminated from the games for moral failure like positive drug tests or for intentionally losing in certain heats in order to place differently and compete against different opponents. Those athletes went home in shame and disgrace.
The reason I point this out is to encourage us to keep our moral standards high. It is okay to fail and make lots of mistakes in life because those experiences give us some of life’s greatest lessons. It is one thing to lie to your boss (which is never a good idea), but it is another thing to cheat on your wife or husband. Make no mistake about it, a moral failure is different. It is devastating. It is painful – not only to yourself and your future opportunities, but to your family, friends, and acquaintances as well. I believe recognizing moral failures are in a category all to themselves, will cause all of us to have a “heads up” attitude and be more careful. It will cause us to make sure that we are doing things openly and honestly, with character, honor and integrity.
I know that we live in a world where it seems like anything goes. People are tempted every day by movies, magazines, billboards, and advertisements. There is no end to the temptation, regardless of which way you turn. Yet, strangely, we are surprised when someone “falls” and we wonder how in the world they could do whatever was done. The truth of the matter is that any one of us, given the right set of circumstances, is susceptible to a moral failure. That is why we all need to stay alert all the time!
So, keep your morals high. Be careful in every area of your life, but especially in your moral life. If you make a mistake in any other area, it is no big deal. You can recover from it. But, if you have a moral failure, it can be devastating. You do not want that and neither do I! It is just so necessary! In the final analysis, the only real success or failure in our life that matters is in the realm of our moral life. Be alert to that; it will help you do better in everything that you do. Don’t you agree?
Tip: The greatest failure is a moral failure!
Have a great week! God bless you!
Dr. Robert A. Rohm