The Heart Of Manliness: I Failed, Now What?

In my line of work, if I don’t do my job well, someone could lose a life. Like a fireman or a surgeon, I often meet life that I may never see again in my day-to-day. The other week I gave my best to save someone’s life, and it was the first time that I felt I failed because someone did die. And it was on my watch.

failureBut, just like a fireman or surgeon, a lot of circumstances happened in the situation that was out of my control. Still, there’s a part of me that feels responsible. I gave my best and it wasn’t enough. And I haven’t really been the same since.

My wife Mimi has been very helpful as I leaned on her in the first couple weeks after the event, but lately she’s been frustrated with me. For days I had been walking around like a guy who got shot. A warm bodied zombie who’s physically present but whose mind is elsewhere. I feel like that bad officer in the Band of Brothers who sits behind a bay of hay in the middle of battle when his platoon needs to move forward. I’m just going to pull the cover over my head and pretend nothing is happening.

“Where is my husband?” my pregnant wife asked me in tears. “I need you to snap out of it! I need you.” But it was like that scene in movies where the guy’s shaking the man to get up but it’s all in slow motion and the sound is on mute. I couldn’t feel or fully hear my love’s desperation.

A couple months ago I wrote about the question that haunts every man: Do I have what it takes? Any doubt to the answer to this question will paralyze us men, causing us to be immobile like a deer in headlights. We let beer or cigarettes or the buzz of a TV or computer screen swallow the emotion we don’t want to feel. I feel like I’m now trying to answer what I think may be the second question that haunts guys: do I still have what it takes? I gave my best but I failed. Do I have the courage to give my best again? Will I get up when I have fallen?

I often trick myself into thinking that I can be the soldier that never gets shot, the boxer who doesn’t get punched, the running back who doesn’t get tackled. I go in with a false sense of confidence and then reality hits me, “Wait, these are real bullets? Real punches? Damn that hurts.” This is nothing like being behind a game controller.

After hearing what I am going through, a friend of mine offered me some great advice—advice he uses all the time for himself. He told me to imagine a buddy of mine who’s going through the exact same situation I’m going through, and think about what advice I would give him. My friend explained that doing this exercise will often help us figure out the answers for ourselves. Well, here’s my attempt at that.

If I had a buddy who’s going through something like what I’m going through, I would tell him that life is hard and that it wasn’t meant to be easy. I would tell him that I too have been in that position, and remind him of one of my favorite quotes: “Failure is not a destination.” I will remind him that the fact that sometimes our best efforts are not enough will always be our reality, but that doesn’t mean we can no longer try or give anymore. We have to learn from our mistakes, become smarter, and grow stronger because of our setbacks. And most importantly, I will remind him that his wife and future daughter needs him. They need a strong husband, a strong father to lead them. Heal up brother, because they need you. Get up and fight for them again.

As men—workers, bachelors, sons, boyfriends, husbands, fathers—our best may not always get what we want. But we have to remember that what is enough is our very best, for ourselves and for the people in our lives. And it’s something I’m trying to walk and live each day.

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