Spirit/Essay. The greatest teacher, failure is…. Yoda. Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

My breath caught when Master Yoda’s spirit gently said this to the man who had once been his pupil. The power was not in the wording of the line, but in how it was said.

It was said simply, in the voice of someone who had lived long, known much success, and although he was not known for it, failure.

We do not simply have the chance to learn from our mistakes. Our failures, both each experience and the experience of falling short itself, provide our greatest opportunity to know that we are all mortal, human, imperfect.

Even the most legendary among us are human. We all fail. What will define us at the end of life is how we responded to failure.

I have fallen short at a number of things recently, from projects that didn’t meet goals I expected to a relationship that fell apart without my realizing it had faltered or understanding why it had.

In each case, the answer is not simply in realizing there was a failure, but, what comes next?

There is something of value to be gained from every loss, every mistake, every failure.

Direct lessons? Sometimes it is to ask for help or realize whom to ask for help. Sometimes it is to know we can be in the position of needing help and still be able to help someone else.

There may be an even bigger life lesson in recognition of our inevitable human imperfection, our inability to be what we should be every time, to do what we should do.

We need to know how to ask forgiveness of those we hurt or disappoint. We need to take responsibility for what we do and for what we did not do when we should have.

And, because all of us are equally imperfect, we need to learn how to find it in our souls to forgive others, even as we want to be forgiven.

And so, I write this reflecting not on what I have done well, but on the many times I have not done well.

From those experiences, may I learn to do my best on the day, every time I am called on.

May I see clearer, listen more mindfully, not that I become a Jedi master or a master of anything else, but that I move toward the greatest goal l can imagine… becoming the best version of myself, a unique human among humankind.

For me, this means remembering a Bible passage I have loved since I was a little girl, with its simple but powerful message:

And what does the Lord ask of you, O Man, but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

However you see the infinite, the perfect, What a world we could live in if we started each day not by taking stock of our abilities, possessions, and successes, but our mortality, our imperfections, and the little kindnesses done to us the previous day.

What if we focused on our ability to grow from every experience, including the embarrassing and painful?

We wouldn’t need a disaster to know human chains are collectively powerful enough to save a person, from a car caught in a flood or desperate loneliness after a death or loss of a job.

We would instinctively reach out rather than shrink in; we would stop judging by superficials and start judging people at a level beneath the superficials— their body language, the places we find them, their manner with other people and animals— the way they live rather than the way they look.

I do not strive to be perfect. I strive to learn from my imperfections. I will continue to fall short in life. May I learn each time. May you, too.

May we live, fail, learn, and grow together.

Elizabeth Coolidge-Stolz, MD/ (c) HealingWoman

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