Our Biggest Failure?

Most of us can probably recall an incident or action in our own lives that we think of as our biggest failure (and if we can’t, we either have severe amnesia or psychopathic tendencies). Many of us can pick out the faults and shortcomings of political institutions, big business, religious organizations or what you will with a keenness of insight and analysis that would leave the world breathless with admiration were it able to eavesdrop on our conversation. We cry ‘shame’ and point the finger of blame as we register yet another failure. But I wonder whether we are missing the biggest failure of all? Does our anger and negativity achieve anything, or does it merely add to the tide of anger and negativity that seems to be engulfing the whole world?

We are quick to state what is wrong, usually what is wrong with the other person/side, quick to hate and deride (though, of course, we prefer to think of it as ‘stating the truth boldly’ or ‘telling it how it is’) but we are often very slow to love and forgive. I think our biggest failure, both as individuals and collectively, is precisely this failure to love and forgive. We know how our own lives have been transformed by the love and graciousness of others, but we do not always stop to think how we ourselves could transform the lives of others in our turn.

In the last few years we have seen mounting political tensions across the globe, economic melt-down, violence and other horrors that defy expression. We have seen genocide and beheadings, the destruction of the world’s cultural heritage and its environment, children deprived of education and the common decencies of life. No one is suggesting that an airy-fairy ‘love is all you need’ approach would solve any of this; and yet, love is, in fact, the only possible solution. The problem, as I see it, is that we have a wrong idea of love. It is not necessarily romantic or warm and fuzzy feeling. Sometimes, there is no feeling at all: just a pure-hearted determination to invite God into situations from which he seems to be excluded. It is the strong, clear, sacrificial kind of love that nails us to the Cross and holds us there with Christ. There never could be any failure in that.

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10 thoughts on “Our Biggest Failure?”

    • I agree with you about righteous anger. It does exist, but it is very rare; and those who claim to be expressing it are usually self-deluded. Not that I’m prejudiced or opinionated in the matter, of course . . .

  1. This brings us back as well, ¿no?, to those literary discussions of what Comedy (comedy, not saeva indignatio ; comedy avoiding personalisation) can achieve in the way of correcting our own and other people’s faults… Molière’s one good man to follow here, I’ve often thought.

    • Couldn’t agree more. But there are days when one wonders whether the whole world is suffering from an astigmatism of the heart; and then, thankfully, something pricks that little bubble of arrogance and brings us to see the Tartuffe in all of us (me anyway).

      • ‘The Tartuffe in all us.’ In me, certainly. I’m spoilt for lines to quote for their delicious and at the same time painful truth, but here’s one at least: ‘Ah! pour être dévot, je n’en suis pas moins homme.’

        ‘Astigmatism of the heart’ is a wonderful phrase. Bullseye.

  2. Must you reduce me to tears at lunchtime? 😉
    Our 14yr old daughter was baptised on Sunday afternoon in a service built very much around music and readings which Clare and her friend who was also baptised (in the river!) had chosen. An afternoon of amazing celebration and joy. At the end of the service, a very dear (non- Christian) friend said ‘I wish I could come to church. I wish I could be part of this love and support. But I don’t believe’
    As ‘church’ how have we managed to reduce the ‘beyond believe’ unconditional love of God into a formula (To be loved, I need to believe). Did the prodigal son believe that his father would receive him when he started his journey home? Or did he just believe that even the scraps of love was better than nothing?

  3. The blame culture is alive and well in our society as is uncharitable feelings and words directed at others. I know that I have been guilty of that in the past, but at least I can see it in myself and restrain the instinct to lash out.

    I suspect that as one of your commentators has said, we’ve allowed love to desert us in everyday life and we reserve it for those that know and cherish. But compare love being dependent upon a particular belief does seem to be a failing of some of us.

    Love is God and God is love I wrote somewhere, perhaps having heard it from someone else and it striking a chord. And that love is charitable, unselfish, firm in correction, but nod judgmental. And is freely gifted to us all, we should be grasping it with our whole heart and soul.

  4. The beginning of a prayer I know starts like this:
    Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,
    Your love alone can save the world,
    Your love alone can overcome all things,
    let us therefore be bearers of you love………

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