“It’s almost summer and I still haven’t heard from any firm yet. Everyone in my class already has an internship lined up during break and I still don’t have anything set up yet. I am going to be so behind with the work experience once firms start recruiting for final year…”
How familiar is this situation? The pressure to succeed is ever so great in these times, and with that comes the capability to deal with the ever-so-real fear of failure. Why is there that pressure in the first place? Pressure is a word with negative connotation, right?
Well, every human being is complex. Some may say they are an open book and easier to read than others. The truth is that everyone has layers and layers of themselves to unfold. Our outer shell is what everyone gets to see which includes our immediate interaction with our peers, our work ethic, etc. Pull the layers away, and our inner shell reveals our attitudes towards our loved ones, passions and hobbies, past experiences that influence our current work ethic, our spirituality. Thus we all experience varying levels of pressure with age, experience and social environments.
That’s why it is very important to not get oneself covered with the dirt of deceit but remain genuine with whoever comes our way. After all, authenticity, just like failure, is a stepping stone to success. For example, most of us grew up in competitive environments during our schooldays where we engaged in an academic and co-curricular race with our peers. In college, we learn to break this habit and live as a community of like-minded folks with a similar goal. By the time we reach the workplace, we begin to understand the importance of co-operation to achieve collective success.
So, it ultimately boils down to living with a co-operative spirit in a community? What stops us then? Fear. According to the Catholic Encyclopaedia, fear is an unsettlement of the soul upon apprehension of some present or future danger. Humans fear when they are concerned about the compliance of their actions with laws of human origin. Fear of offending one’s parents and superiors, loved ones, fear of failure, fear of being mocked, made fun of, etc. these all foil God’s plans for us. I’m not saying that fear is unnecessary. Of course, we need fear- it helps keep ourselves in line, it helps us recognise what we’re capable of what we are and what we aren’t. But fear of failure stems from a lack of faith. Thus it’s up to us: Do we want to live in fear or with faith?
Pope Francis recently recognised that although “young people desire stable family life as a requisite for happiness, most of them don’t even want to think about marriage and that fewer people are getting married these days”. He supposes that it is because of “the fear of failure in marriage that prevents them from trusting in Christ’s promise of grace in marriage and in the family”. It was here that His Holiness reminded us that when Christians marry ‘in the Lord’, they “do not do it only for themselves, but for the benefit of the whole community”. Accordingly, we can now all see that the key to overcoming fear of failure and failure itself is to remember that as Catholics, the reasons for our actions and decisions are not selfish, but for the greater good of the community, the very community in which we feel the pressure to succeed. Even Mother Teresa would back me up on this, I’m sure, as she once said, “We are called to be faithful, not successful”.
My story: Love and faith means Responsibility
So there’s no doubt that a strong and successful community is born of faith and love. This is possible only if we take the initiative to include and mentor one another, thus overcoming fear with faith. Christ himself recognised the vulnerability of his fishermen, but he led them to become fishers of men. Similarly, the early Christians (as we read in Acts 9:26-31) were apprehensive of Saul joining the community because of his Anti-Christian history, but Barnabas stuck up for him, and encouraged him every step of the way- into his conversion as the great St. Paul. This is actually true of all of us! Most of the time, in our daily situations, when we can recognise failure in ourselves and others, we can push out of own comfort zones and work with each others’ weaknesses and strengths to acclimate them in our own environments.
At the end of the day, I know it’s easy to tell others to not be afraid of failing and to step up to lead others in their community. A few months ago, I was just a college student with barely any technical knowledge until my professor assigned my class partner and I, the assignment of developing plumbing for a children’s greenhouse in a poor neighbourhood. My partner and I had just each other- and the occasional mentoring of our professor. What I loved best about the whole task was that as we made trips to the hardware store and researched plumbing solutions, we kept the faith that we would eventually succeed. A few prototypes and several weeks later, we fearlessly presented our finalised leak-proof rainwater harvesting solutions for our clients. The joy on the children’s faces and the neighbourhood farmer himself was worth it. We had nothing to fear, (even if we could have failed an entire neighbourhood) just the faith in our God-given talents and the love and concern we had for the neighbourhood.
Bottom line? “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18 RSV).