ב”ה الحمد لله
After I returned home from volleyball, my friend shared how things are going. He was feeling discouraged at making the same mistakes, failing recurring spiritual tests; how long will it take him to make the changes he needs to, and would he ever succeed?
So I was inspired to tell him the story of what had just happened at the volleyball game. It’s an open pick-up game, and I was on a team with a skilled player I had seen before, and a young woman I took to be his girlfriend, who had less mastery over the game.
After the first game, she confessed apologetically that she was had just started learning and was taking classes, and I gave her the feedback that she was doing quite well; I wouldn’t have guessed she was new to the game.
Two games later, our team was sitting out, and as I walked past her, I overheard her listing out to her boyfriend the various errors she had made that had cost the team points. It sounded like she wasn’t sure she should keep playing. I was inspired to stop and interject.
“No matter how good you get at this game, no matter what level of mastery you attain, you will always have this same feeling when you make a mistake: that you let the team down, that you should have done better, that someone else would have succeeded in your place. Don’t succumb to the urge to quit. Those feelings are part of the game. Whatever level you play at, whatever game it is, we all make mistakes. And we all feel bad about them. So try to make peace with it, try to embrace the learning, because it’s a package deal. The success and the mistakes.”
And my friend took some heart from that message, thank God. And it’s true, gentle Reader, that we all make mistakes. And in those moments after our ungraceful acts, when we have some regret or remorse or self-blame, it’s an opportunity for the darker energies to amplify those feelings in an effort to convince us to quit. “Give it up,” the internal message reads, “you’ll never master this; who are you kidding?”
The actual “mistake” we made is usually not of that much consequence in the larger scheme of things, but the self-recrimination can really sideline us, take us out of the game, God forbid.
So I hope the next time, when the critical inner voice gets started, you listen for just the microsecond needed to commit to improving yourself, and then turn down the sound. Because getting discouraged or demoralized won’t help anyone, least of all yourself.
We need everyone playing the best they can in this game of life, and that includes you and me.