Why Relapse, Failure, and “No” are a Good Thing

I relapsed this month.

Why am I telling you this? Usually one tries to hide and minimize failure, and here I am pointing a spotlight on it!

It’s because I’ve found a bright side to failure. It’s not all it’s shamed to be. Failure has a poor reputation. We think it’s to be avoided, hidden, and minimized.

But what if we detached shame from failure and just looked at it non-emotionally? What if we gave failure a second chance?

That’s what I want to do in this post, by sharing a few of my recent failures with you and how they’ve actually been a good thing, if I let them.


Ya’ll know I did the Tummy Team Core Rehab Program last fall, and experienced wonderful results—back pain completely gone, growing enjoyment of my new strength and alignment. I did good for 3 months, staying aware of my alignment, keeping up with the little movements, stretches and functional excersizes I’d learned to attach to my every day routine.

But this month I relapsed. Maybe it was being sick and low on energy, maybe too much toting around of a little girl who only wants to be held when she’s teething, maybe it was an 20 hour road trip with too many hours curled up in a car seat. At any rate, by the time we got to NY, my back was spasming for the first time since doing the program.

I realized I had failed. I had relapsed. I had shifted back into old habits of lifting without engaging my core, of carrying Lydia too much, of being lazy in those small moments that mean so much for proper alignment.

I could have freaked out. Except I realized something—the very definition of relapse is to “fall into a former state” (re: back, lapse: to slip. See, I remember a little Latin, Mom!). I had been here before, but the fact that I had to go back to get to this place of pain, meant that I knew the way forward.

As much as I could while on our trip, I re-implemented the stretches and alignment cues I’d learned in the program, and when I got home I reviewed all the printouts and printed a new chart for me to keep track of my movements (I like checking things off).

It was that easy. My back felt better within days, and best of all—I didn’t let failure trip me up. I let it show me the way forward.

More on Failure

I’ve been teaching my kids to draw, using the book my mother used to teach me 20 years ago. I love Mona Brooks because, more than just a “how to draw” textbook, she teaches you a mindset toward the creative process that embraces failure as part of the process and actually puts it in a good light.

Artists know about “finding lines” but I think the rest of us need to learn this principle. When sketching or painting, one doesn’t often find the right line or shade of paint the first time. You have to try a few strokes first to find the one that looks right. After finding the right line, the finding lines will be erased, or just ignored or shaded over.

When teaching a child to draw, there will be a lot of what they call wrong lines. The key to gaining confidence and developing skill as an artist is seeing those lines as helpful guides toward the true angle or curve they want. In art class, I often remind the kids of the value of mistakes, and show them how doing it wrong can lead to creative discoveries in their artistic process.

What if we saw failure as “finding lines”? As guides bringing us closer to the best course of action?

What if the new routine you tried doesn’t work? What if a recipe fails? Then we’re that much closer to finding what does work, right?

We know this in theory, but what would it look like today if you quit being afraid to fail the first (or second, or third) time? For me it looks like me “sketching” up a new morning routine for our school today, even though I fear it won’t be right the first time. Yikes. How silly of me to put it off for so long—failure is actually part of the process of finding the right rhythm for our mornings!

And finally, “No”

My husband got home the other day I greeted him with the exciting announcement, “I said no to something today, and it felt so good!”

When I first started learning to say “no” instead of always doing what I think would get me the most approval from the masses, it was a stressful, emotionally draining exercise. Jeremy would come home and I’d collapse weeping into his arms, having said the word that meant I was choosing what was best for me and my little family, at a huge expense of energy.

It was rather messy and dramatic, and didn’t at all feel like a positive thing.

But after several years of practice, I’m not so afraid of meeting up with “no”. Once freed from the burden of pleasing everyone, and focusing my energy on what God has called me to (always a much lighter, joy-filled task!), I’ve learned to see “no” as an ally. Kinda like that friend of yours who’s personality is almost annoyingly different than yours, but she always sees things from a different angle than you, and can give amazing perspective and advice and ideas you’d never think of.

All guilt and shame aside, “No” is actually a friend who promises an alternate route with amazing views and refreshing breezes.

Part of the Beauty?

I used to be terrified of failure, going backwards, or having to say “no” to someone or something. But I’m learning to see the beauty in these steps. Maybe it’s because life is more like a waltz than a race, with just as many side steps and backwards movements as forward motion. And it can indeed be beautiful.

Tell me about a failure you’ve had this week, that actually has a bright side, will you? It will help me be brave to finally sit down and rework our routine. 😉 

This post contains affiliate links. I think. I’m not very good at adding them. I experience failure a lot in that area. LOL Finding lines, right?

13 responses to “Why Relapse, Failure, and “No” are a Good Thing”

  1. Catherine Avatar

    I look forward to reading more from you Trina. I have nominated you for The Blogger Recognition Award. Please accept it here https://foundinthetruth.wordpress.com/2015/08/25/blogger-recognition-award/

    1. Trina Avatar

      Thank you, Catherine–I’m honored!

  2. Francis Avatar

    Thank you for always being real. I have been off gluten for months and recently had eaten gluten again on a couple occasions. I didn’t feel shamed, but did I sure pay for it. I realized I messed up and that my body cannot tolerate gluten at all, but in that it was a good reminder of how awful I used to feel before I discovered I was sensitive to gluten. If anything it encouraged me to get back on track so that I could feel good again. I am so thankful that the Lord helped me to figure this out and I know he will help me to stay on the right path with my diet. So I too see failure as a good thing as long as we learn from it. Thanks again for all that you share. I wish I could know you in person. We moved from California to Indiana 2yrs ago and love it, but definitely miss family. I pray many blessings upon your family. God bless!

    Francis 🙂

    1. Trina Avatar

      Francis, thanks for sharing you story. I’m sorry about your gluten sensitivity–I know that’s a tough burden to bear, but I’m glad you’ve discovered what makes you feel better. I would love to meet you, too! Praying you find community and close friendships in your new state.

  3. Stacy @Stacy Makes Cents Avatar

    I have this happen with food a lot – I get busy and become lazy with our eating habits. But since I know the things that make us feel good, it’s just a matter of smacking myself and getting back on track. By the way, I love you. 🙂

    1. Trina Avatar

      I love you, too. Please don’t smack yourself. 😉

      You have a new baby. You don’t get a lot of sleep. I don’t call that lazy, I call that “a season” in which you are intentionally not doing everything you might know to do because that would just be adding stress. Sometimes taking short cuts is the wisest thing. I am doing it right now, too, in some areas. And it hasn’t killed me yet. 😉

  4. Everly Avatar

    I really, really liked this post!

    We had a day this week in which we got word of three deaths in our circle of friends and family. My sister and her husband rushed out of town to be with family when his grandmother was in her last moments on earth, a young man from our church succumbed to brain cancer and the parent of an old friend also passed. None of them were people we knew particularly well, but weight of our friends’ burdens pressed hard and I found myself feeling angry and irritable, because I wanted to make things right again, but knew I couldn’t.

    My to-do list went out the window that day. I did what needed to be done to stay sane and keep my family afloat, nothing more.

    It felt like a failure at the end of the day when I saw my prioritized tasks with the star next to them, all unchecked. But at the same time, it felt like a success, because I knew I had done the mature thing, and the good thing.

  5. Jessica Avatar

    This is very inspiring. I feel I let people down when I say no, and also I am a perfectionist, so when I fail I am crushed for a multitude of reasons, plus if I know I won’t be good at something, it is hard for me to be motivated to do it at all.

    That being said, I went to my very first audition for a play for community theater and was not called back. I hated failing at first, but God used it as a experience to learn about the process and environment at auditions, as well as expose what was in my heart about them (on the car ride home I was telling God why do I want to act anyway, I hate people looking at me because I think I am ugly.) So He used that experience to have me learn as well as flush out of my heart and get out into words like never before how so insecure I am. But by the time I got home I thanked God for the experience and felt at peace.

    1. Trina Avatar

      Jessica, I am so blessed to read your story of God meeting you in a time of failure. Methinks He has untold treasures for us in these moments if we will only stop to listen. So glad for the truths that came to light during your drive home!

  6. Jessiqua Wittman Avatar

    This week I realized that I hadn’t worked on even a moment of official school with my kids for several days straight. We’ve been so busy with other attention-consuming stuff, it had just entirely slipped my mind. I totally felt like a failure. Especially since my born-educator type mother had taught me to read at a fifth grade level by the time I was five, and my own five year old is still struggling to spell “cat”.
    But then… after moping a bit… I reminded myself that my children are fine. They haven’t been permanently scarred or set back because of this time of less-than-usual schooling. I just needed to get off my duff, quit being such a pity-party-animal and get back to work.
    So I did. We made words with gigantic foam puzzle pieces on the floor and my five year old was begging for “Just one more word, Momma!”

    1. Trina Avatar

      Jessiqua–I love this! I think that one of the biggest downsides to failure is that we can allow it to “sideline” us far too long. God never calls us to wallow. Why do I feel I must wallow before I move on from a mistake? LOL
      That being said, in this season, with the ages of your children, I’m thinking there is a whole lot of grace, and plenty of benefit in showing them the beauty in different sorts of days and rhythms. I think you’re doing great, and I love the word puzzle.
      Also, if it makes you feel any better, my 8 year old is only just now getting the hang of reading. They all learn at different paces!

  7. Omily Avatar

    Yay for you 🙂 Congrats, and thanks for the reminder. I’ve been going through similar ‘training’ lately 🙂
    This week? My failure was being ridiculously impatient with the little guyses, and God gently showed me how He is enough and how I don’t need to freak out, and how He loves me no matter how well I think I perform or not.

    1. Trina Avatar

      yes, yes, yes. the best truth: He loves me no matter how well I think I perform or not. !

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