Two seconds remain on the clock. The place kicker carefully notes where the ball will be spotted, takes a couple of measured steps back and two steps sideways. He glances up at the goal posts and then his full concentration is on the spot where the holder will place the football for the easy, game-winning field goal.
“The snap, the set, the kick is up… He shanked it! He shanked it! The ball went far to the left of the upright! He missed it! How could he have missed such an easy field goal? The game is over. The season is over. Dreams of a national championship are over. What a goat!”
It doesn’t matter how many field goals he made during the regular season to get his team to the title game—he missed the one that really counted. “What a loser!”
Then there’s the beauty contestant in the finals of the international pageant. The eyes of the world are watching. She is favored to win. She has been poised and radiantly confident during the swimsuit and talent competitions. Her hair, her eyes, her comely figure, her “girl-next-door” demeanor, her radiant smile!
Then, as she descends the stairs in her elegant evening gown, a high heel catches in the hem of her softly flowing, gossamer dress. She stumbles. She falls. She lands clumsily on her derriere. “What a klutz! How embarrassing! How funny! I bet she’ll never show her face on t.v. again!”
How about the young woman from the little hill country town who goes away to college—the first of her family to do so? She dreams of returning to her community as a certified veterinarian. Her parents are so proud of her.
She seeks out her student number on the bulletin board next to the professor’s office where the final grades are posted. She finds her number, says a little prayer, takes a deep breath and then, with her finger, traces a line from her student number to the final exam grade.
68! She didn’t make it. She fails the course! “I’m a total failure,” she moans. “How can I tell Mom and Dad? What will they think of me?” She is heart-broken.
It is written, “Fools mock, but they shall mourn; and my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness;
“I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” (Ether 12:26-27)
Theodore Roosevelt gave us tremendous insight, and perhaps comfort, in these still relevant words:
“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better.
“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again,
because there is no effort without error or shortcoming,
“But who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at best, knows in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly,
“So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.” (Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910)