I’ll fail if I want to!

What is failure?

Some years ago I chatted to a neighbour, and told her about something I’d tried to do, or intended to do (I forget the exact details), but hadn’t quite managed. So I cheerfully said ‘I failed!’

‘Oh no, don’t say that!’ she cried. And I asked why, since it’s what happened. I wondered if it was so unacceptable not to have done whatever it was I hadn’t managed to do, that she had to react like that.

I was really puzzled and needed to investigate why I couldn’t say this. It was what we were talking about, and the circumstances required me to mention the – lack of – result. In the end we had to spend far too much time for my liking discussing the actual word.

To fail. It turned out that for her, failure was such a serious, end-of-the-world word that it upset her deeply. You should never say you failed.

But to me it was merely a word that described that the thing I set out to do wasn’t successful. Lots of things aren’t, and it’s still not the end of the world. No matter which word I used, the level of success remained the same.

She calmed down after a while, realising I wasn’t telling her about the most dreadful thing that ever happened to me; instead simply mentioning a certain lack of success.

It’s sort of interesting, how much – or how little – emotional value people put on one word.

3 responses to “I’ll fail if I want to!

  1. You seem remarkably level-headed about it. I don’t know about England, but I think in America there’s a lot of stigma around failure, otherwise Donald Trump wouldn’t be doing so well by calling everyone who isn’t him a loser.

  2. It’s really interesting to know how some words affect people .. Thanks for sharing 🙂

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