Failure, Our Greatest Fear

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May 24, 2012 by Brian

When we are young, we think we are good at everything.  Imagine a kindergarten classroom.  The teacher asks “Who likes to draw?  Who is a good dancer?, etc.”  Almost all hands go up.  Ask a room full of men the same generic questions, and almost no hands go up.  Why?  Could it be that we might have to prove it?  What if we failed?

Kids aren’t afraid to put themselves out there and risk failure, so why are we.  What kinds of things do we avoid out of our fear of failure?  And what is the big deal about failure anyway?

We started the night by watching a pep talk about taking the road to awesome-ness.  “Not cool Robert Frost!”  You’ll have to watch this 3 minute video to understand that one.

As I looked through my notes about our meeting this week, I started cracking up about 1/3 of the way through.  Amidst all the serious thought and genuine wisdom, there was a two word notation that seemed to jump of the page and made no sense without context.

“Turtle Fist”  I’ll leave that alone…one of those “had to be there” moments.  Or, be glad you weren’t there.  Either way.

The conversation got started with a reading of an article by Rick Warren about man’s greatest fear:  Failure.  You can read it in its entirety here:

A quick scan of the room confirmed it, we are all afraid of failure at some level.  At what, exactly, are we afraid to fail?

Our careers.  Why?  Because as men our personal identity and self worth is tied to our work.  We also take seriously our obligation to provide for our families, and a failure at work may represent an inability to adequately provide food, shelter, security to our wives and kids.  At what else are we afraid to fail?  And does that fear of failing at our careers cause us to spend our time and energy there, sometimes actually CAUSING us to fail in our families? {See picture above}

Marriage.  Being a good husband.  Are we afraid of divorce?

Being a good father.  We are afraid that our kids are going to turn out all screwed up.

In one of our groups, we spent the rest of the evening talking about what our wives need most from us and where we are coming up short.  What is the thing our wives long to hear most from us?  That she’s pretty?  No.  Wait..Yes.  Ok..No.  What a crack-up listening to a group of rough and tumble guys talk about what women want most from their husbands.  Here is the bottom line.  The questions every woman longs to know the answer to is:

Do you see me?  Am I beautiful?  Am I worth fighting for?

Many admitted they were terrible at speaking positively, giving compliments.  Those that did give the occasional compliments were largely limited to comments on their physical appearance.  ”Honey, you look great.  You are sure pretty tonight.  Wow babe.  You look hot!”  Upon reflection, we agreed that these alone were not sufficient and really meaningless answers to her unspoken question – Do you SEE me?

As we went ‘round the room, many guys were able to readily list all of the things they love and admire about their wives – beauty was the least important.  And practically every one of us confessed to hardly ever complimenting our wives on anything other than “looking pretty.”  They need to know so much more than that.  When they are asking us, “Do you see me?”, they want to know if we see them for the special, powerful, amazing person that they are.  It is our job to let them know – regularly – through verbal compliments and comments, how much we adore them and value them in our lives.  Yes…they want to hear that they are pretty, too.  But not at the expense of the other, more important, more meaningful feelings we have about their whole person.

Our daughters, too, have the same question.  Curiously, most of the group admitted to being way better at encouraging and sharing their pride and admiration with their kids than their wives. Hellooo!

In the end, we resolved to change our behaviors and start pouring words of encouragement and love into the daily interactions with our wives.  No more superficial “you look pretty” comments.  A summary of some take aways from our group:

“I will take my health more seriously.  I don’t want to fail at that.”

“I will be one of those people that provide safe environments for others to try something, and risk failure.  I’ll be there to help them up if they fall.”

“I’ve been putting off a big decision for a while, because I’m afraid I might fail.  THis week, I will take the next step in that decision making process”

“I will communicate more effectively with my wife.”

“I will think of it like learning a new language, and make an effort to learn how to tell her how I feel about her – in her language.”

“We should make a conscious effort to acknowledge them and all that we appreciate.”

“We need to recognize our wives are powerful and handle them the right way.  We should recognize their amazing value in the family.  They are shaping lives.”

“Pay more attention to the stuff she does every day, and not just tell her she’s hot.”

“Turtle Fist.”  See!  It was right there, in the middle of all this great material.  Really?

“Stop and share a moment with her.  She is way more important than whatever else you’re doing at any given time.”

“Make sure she knows that she isn’t alone.  That we’re in this thing called life together and you’re here for her.”

Needless to say, if everyone did what they resolved to do, then 11 women have a different understanding of their value to their husbands than they did last week. was long overdue.

What a great group!

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