For devotional on Valentine's Day we were given the following talk. It really resonated with me as regret and past mistakes have caused me more pain then basically anything else. However, because of my mistakes, I've become closer to the Savior. These mistakes have led me to the temple and allow me to have empathy for others. I hope that we can recognize that we weren't sent to the earth to be flawless. We are here to give our agency a boot-camp workout. On Failing and Finishing
by Cassy Budd
Play Through Your Mistakes
When you allow yourself to be paralyzed by your mistakes, you diminish your ability to be useful in God’s kingdom. Making mistakes is simply part of the human condition and can be one of your most productive learning tools. Yes, you need to recognize your mistakes. But more than that, you need to find a way to effectively play through them.
Show Up and Try
[Learning to ski] gave me a deep appreciation for the value of the “try.” Simply showing up and starting where you are is all that can be asked of you. Regardless of your level of experience, your failures, or your perception of your own potential, wherever you are in life, you just need to show up and try. Try to listen to the patient instruction of the Savior, try to imitate His movements, try to ignore the negative self-talk when your movements do not measure up, and try to focus on the joy in the learning instead of the defeat in the failure. And amidst your “try,” recognize that others around you are in the middle of their own “try.” Celebrate their progress, even when they seem to be farther along than you, and give them a pass when they fall short.
In my own classroom I have seen through experience that failure is one of the best ways to generate lasting intellectual learning. Let me share something from the authors of Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning:
Unsuccessful attempts to solve a problem encourage deep processing of the answer when it is later supplied, creating fertile ground for its encoding, in a way that simply reading [or being given] the answer cannot. [Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, and Mark A. McDaniel (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2014), 88]
I look forward to these unsuccessful moments with my students, though I know they are in pain. It is very satisfying as a teacher to witness the transition from failed attempt to recognition and understanding.
Failure is useful in physical development as well. Strategically working a muscle to failure—the point at which you can no longer lift or push or pull whatever you are lifting or pushing or pulling—and then allowing proper time for the muscle fibers to repair is one of the most effective ways to build strength. This process of failing and repairing eventually results in stronger, more efficient muscles.
To improve my overall health and fitness, I recently started working with a trainer. My trainer, Josh, is big on this idea of failure. He chooses movements and weights that will get me to the failing point just at the end of a set, and somehow he knows when to step in to help me finish. It used to irritate me to have him grinning and laughing while helping me through the last few failed reps, but I realize now that he saw progress where I saw failure. He looks forward to those moments, like I do with my students, because he gets to be a real participant in my growth.
If failure is important to our intellectual and physical improvement, perhaps it is important in our quest for perfection as well. Could it be that our moments of extremity are necessary for our spiritual progress and that our Savior knows that only then we are ready to learn? Regrettably, accepting help when we need it most can be difficult.
We are all that needy...We all, at one time or other, will be in a situation in which our strength or knowledge or skill or perhaps even our desire is not enough. These are the times when your Savior pulls you up out of the darkness—if you will let go and take His hand. These are the times when His voice guides you to safety—if you will listen carefully. And it is for these times that He descended below all things—to become your stepping-stone.
I love these words of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland:
When [the Savior] says . . . , “Come unto me,” He means He knows the way out and He knows the way up. He knows it because He has walked it. He knows the way because He is the way. [“Broken Things to Mend,” Ensign, May 2006; emphasis in original]
Living perfectly is not the plan. Repentance is the plan. Jesus Christ is the plan. I think we erroneously equate perfection with living a perfect life, with never failing or falling short, but Jesus Christ is the only one who ever did or ever will do that. Perfection for us, then, must be about something else.
John S. Robertson explained in a BYU devotional that our understanding of the word perfect has changed over the last 400 years: whereas we use perfect to mean “flawless” today, its Latinate root meant something closer to “finished.” Furthermore, the Hebrew word that was translated as “perfect” in the Bible might have been more accurately translated as “complete” (see “A Complete Look at Perfect,” BYU devotional address, 13 July 1999). Perfection, for us, is not about being flawless; it is about being finished.
Artists who practice the Japanese art form kintsugi repair broken pottery by filling the cracks with a lacquer made from gold, silver, or platinum, restoring the damaged piece to something beautiful and whole. Kintsugi teaches that scars are not something to hide; rather, they are to be celebrated for the unique beauty they exhibit. The scars themselves are considered precious and therefore are mended with precious metals to honor their value. The finished piece is even more beautiful than the unbroken original.
Similarly, we honor the scars of our Savior, for He has graven us on the palms of His hands (see Isaiah 49:16). He is not ashamed of His scars. On the contrary, He has given us this invitation:
Arise and come forth . . . that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am . . . the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world. [3 Nephi 11:14]
When we turn our broken pieces over to the Savior, our gaps are filled with Him—with His perfection—and we are made complete; we are finished by the Great Creator through the restorative power of “the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). We come to know the Savior not just by recognizing and reverencing His scars but by recognizing and reverencing our own. We are bound to the Savior through our mutual scars, “and with His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5; see also verse 4).
School of Accountancy, delivered this devotional address on February 14, 2017.