Mental Health is ... Giving Grace to Failure and Rethinking Expectations

Mental Health is … Giving Grace to Failure and Rethinking Expectations

When we have realistic expectations, we can build resilience and an internal wisdom that is gentle with our humanity. We can grace ourselves and others when there is a failure to meet expectations.

What caused the breakdown?

Was it a genetic weakness? The piling up of expectations? Lack of sleep, physical fitness, diet? The list can go and on and is endless.

We put on the shiny superman cape and fend off stress bullets and then wonder why we have holes in the heart.

So …

  • I am setting limits on what I can and cannot do. Some call these limits boundaries; I prefer to call them Lines of love and respect.
  • Out of love and respect for myself, I will only do what I can do. I will leave the miracles up to God.
  • Out of love and respect for others, I will have realistic expectations for them that have been negotiated with them, so they aren’t the ones that crack and snap and break.

Fisherman failure

It must have been a rude awakening for Peter as mulled over in his mind how he had failed Jesus.

He hadn’t just denied knowing Jesus once, but he had said it three times.

Peter said, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
At that very moment, the last word hardly off his lips, a rooster crowed. Just then, the Master turned and looked at Peter.
Peter remembered what the Master had said to him: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.”
He went out and cried and cried and cried.
Luke 22:54-62 The Message (MSG)

He said he would never do this. He was better than that yet when the bar of performance had to be met, the house of ego cards fell apart.

If you have ever failed big time, you will know the heart of Peter. You cry and cry and cry.

You say you will do one thing then you do the complete opposite.

You let yourself down. You let others down.

Restoration of the realistic

When you fail, you need a simple feast with a perfect friend.

After breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Master, you know I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” 

John 21:15 The Message (MSG)

Jesus was not going to allow failures in a follower to hinder his plans. The failures were to be stepping up stones. Places of learning and growth.

After this Peter was more grounded in his expectations of himself and others.

Expectations and performance

We all have expectations in our lives.

It might be in our relationships (my son should be doing this, my wife or husband should be doing this).

It might be in our jobs (the boss doesn’t pay me enough, they are giving me too much work)

It might be the expectations we have of ourselves (I should be able to do this etc.).

When the performance is above expectations, then we feel great.

When the performance is below expectations, then we feel lousy and frustrated.

Images from my free ebook Out of the darkness

Mental Health is ... Giving Grace to Failure and Rethinking Expectations

If we turn this frustration in on ourselves, it can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, stress, and guilt.

If we turn this frustration onto others, it creates anger, aggression, discontentment and a feeling of blame. ‘It’s all their fault.’

To move through this, we need to adjust the level of expectations to a point which is achievable. Don’t have such high expectations and match the expectations to what you know can be achieved.


Mental Health is ... Giving Grace to Failure and Rethinking Expectations

Gracing yourself

Justice – is getting what is deserved
Mercy – is not getting what is deserved

Grace – is getting what is not deserved
Darrell Johnson – Fifty-Seven words that change the World

Can you give yourself and others some grace, or are you stuck in the performance trap of harsh justice?

  • I have failed therefore I am a failure.
  • They have failed therefore they are failures.

Mental health is sitting on a beach with a friend who restores us from crying and crying and crying to being a person who is at peace with their failures.

To a person who sees the failures as not being fatal, but as steps into reality.

Quotes to consider

  • Perfectionist individuals, we find, are likely to respond to the perception of failure or inadequacy with a precipitous loss in self-esteem that can trigger episodes of severe depression and anxiety. Brennan Manning A Glimpse of Jesus
  • Unless a bishop, teacher, or minister has on some level walked through suffering, failure, or humiliation, his or her words will tend to be fine but superficial, OK but harmless, heard by the ears but unable to touch the soul. Richard Rohr Page: Eager to Love
  • Can my world ever be rebuilt? Do I have any value? Can I be useful again? Is there life after failure? My answer is yes. That is what grace is all about. A marvelous, forgiving, healing grace says that all things can be new. And I would like to talk about the grace I have been given by God and by many others. Gordon MacDonald Rebuilding Your Broken World
  • In pain, failure, and brokenness, God does His finest work in the lives of people. Gordon MacDonald Rebuilding Your Broken World
  • Almost every personal defeat begins with our failure to know ourselves, to have a clear view of our capabilities (negative and positive), our propensities, our weak sides. Gordon MacDonald Rebuilding Your Broken World
  • Only ego thinks embarrassment or failure are more than what they are. Ryan Holiday Ego is the Enemy
  • Adam’s failure did not surprise God. Neither does mine. He knew both were coming. And He was prepared with a plan to put divine love on display for all to see. Dr. Larry Crabb When God’s Ways Make No Sense
  • Your failures are just another occasion and opportunity to learn and practice love, even toward yourself. You deserve mercy too. Richard Rohr: Essential Teachings on Love

Questions to answer

  1. Can you be gentle with yourself? What gets in the way?
  2. What would Jesus say to you on that beach?
  3. Are your expectations realistic? Who set those expectations?

Further reading

Grace Is The Greatest Gift You Can Give Yourself

‘I’m Such A Failure’ and Here is What I Want You to Know

Isn’t It Time to Banish the Bookkeeper? Forgive

Barry Pearman

Image cc: Harry Burk


Barry Pearman

Barry is a writer, coach, and course creator that has a passion for Mental Health and Spiritual Formation.

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