The Rod Blog

25 December 2005

Of Failure and a Christmas Wish

It is a notable trait of American culture that they like to sing of their success. Of how they overcame impossible odds to come out on top. I like this; we need these stories to help make it though the challenges of life.

I was reading a blog the other day, of how one such person came to defeat a bully. I thought of my own experiences with bullies and in particular, of how I failed to deal with one. But today I want to tell a different story. A story of failure, but perhaps failure is essential ingredient of success.

At age 14, my best mate was Craig. We did all the boy things that boys love. We jumped our bikes, and got up to all sorts of mostly harmless mischief. We tried making bombs and rockets out of home-made gunpowder, but mostly they just fizzed lots of smoke. I’ll never forget Dad coming into the kitchen just after one of my recipes had caught fire, filling the room with thick smoke. Oh crap, I thought, I’m toast. But Dad was waaaay cool. He just looked around, waved his arm, and said ‘hmmmm’. And then he just walked out again. Thanks Dad, I don’t know how I was going to explain that one.

So one day I’m up at Craig’s place, which backs onto a reserve. Up there are a couple of younger kids: I’d say, maybe 9 or 10 years old. Much smaller than us, also mucking around doing boy things. I don’t know who did this, but one of us picks up a small rock, and lobs it at the other. Yay, that was fun, but in a flash, here comes one back again. Well we can’t have that, here’s another one for you. Ow! That hurt! Pretty soon the rocks grow bigger and faster, and the aim gets deadlier and nastier.

The air is swarming with flying rocks, and we run from tree to tree looking for cover, flinging missiles as we go. This can’t be right, we have overwhelming physical superiority. We’re far bigger and stronger, but these kids won’t back off.

One in particular is a plucky little so-and-so. I score a direct hit. He gets one back. It’s me and him. Damn! I want him to stop. Bang, I hit with another. It must of hurt. The way to defeat him must be to apply my superior force, but wait, he’s run into our yard, arm cocked. We’re ready for a Trafalgar battle broadside, so I jump the gunwales and pin him to the ground. I’ve got my hands around his neck, and he’s pinned helplessly to the ground, but still he won’t yield. I’m furious and desperate, knocking his head on the ground. His eyes are fairly popping, and tears are streaming down his cheeks.

I am appalled and sickened by my own savagery. How did we get to this? Why doesn’t he give up? I am crushing him by force, and yet through teary eyes he stares back at me with unrelenting determination. We’ll make a deal, I tell him. I’ll stop if you stop. Let’s call it quits. Okay, he says. We’ve found a way out, and cautiously I release my grip. True to his word, he slinks off bruised, cursing, and defiant all the way.

I never meant for it to get to this, it just sort of got out of hand. My physical strength was not enough against such a determined opponent. My only escape was to surrender some pride. But the real shame was that I allowed it to happen in the first place.

And now I look at the world, and I see this story repeated on a global scale. Just being stronger is not enough. If I have a Christian message for this time of the year, it is to be prepared to take a slap on the face, and not feel obliged to return it. I despair at those who think the ultimate violence of war is the way to repair the world.

May the spirit of Christmas be with you.


  • Wise message, Rod. Any oh so much easier to say than do! Jenny

    By Anonymous Jenny A, at 3:03 pm  

  • Its kinda scary how far we go at times to prove a point or win at all costs. We are conditioned to be right all the time but when we give that up (even if we are right) we give ourselves space to create a whole new world or way of being that can make a difference. Thanks for sharing this with us. David

    By Blogger David, at 3:50 pm  

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