Forest fires versus radiation: A lesson on how to fail
Everyone gets burned in life. But there are different ways we can get burned, and our burns can cause vastly different effects.
Forest fires destroy everything in their path. But after the fire has passed, a miraculous thing happens: new, vibrant green growth bursts through the black ash and charred earth.
Fires return nutrients to the soil. They also disinfect the forest of disease-ridden plants and harmful insects. They allow sunlight to reach the forest floor, thus spurring new growth.
Did you know that some plant species actually depend on wildfires to regenerate?
The lodge cone pine, for example, has a waxy coating on its cones that holds seeds in place until a fire releases them. The seeds of other species lie dormant just below the surface of the soil. Then, as fire passes over them, hormones are activated that trigger the seed to grow.
Radiation, on the other hand, has a far different effect.
Radiation doesn’t just burn; it poisons. It damages organisms not just on a cellular level, but on a genetic level as well. Such genetic damage cannot be reversed in most cases.
Seeds exposed to radiation stop germinating and sprouting — and often stop reproducing entirely. Or if they keep growing, genetic mutations often make survival impossible. And if the genetic mutations don’t kill organisms, the cancer that often develops as a result does.
I pondered these contrasts after a seminar speaker taught me a concept I will never forget: Fail forward.
To fail forward means that after the fire of failure has passed, you are humbler, wiser, stronger, bolder, better.
The nutrients of vital lessons learned have fertilized your soul; new growth has been triggered.
False beliefs, like diseased plants, have been purged. Delusions, like tangled undergrowth, have been scorched and cleared away. You are open to receive rays of wisdom, like sunlight from the heavens.
Seeds of courage and greatness that have long lain dormant have sprouted. Beneath the charred ash of your failure new life is teeming — feeding on the failure, eager to burst through the surface.
To fail backward means that your failure has made you weak, hesitant, disillusioned.
Your twisted perspective, like a genetic mutation, strangles your desire and ability to regenerate.
The fire of failure can make you greener or darker; more vibrant and alive or more corrupt and barren. It can generate new, healthy growth or provoke cancerous decay.
Trees and grass don’t know how to stop growing; it’s not programmed into their DNA. Trees can’t choose to stunt their own growth or commit suicide — something foreign has to be introduced into their cells to kill them.
Children of God, on the other hand, can choose to burn and poison themselves with their attitude.
We stunt our growth every time we choose anger and bitterness over love and hope. We kill ourselves slowly but perceptibly every time we choose fear over faith. We stifle our destiny every time we choose despair over courage.
You have been burned in life. Have you been poisoned or purified? Are you dying or regenerating? Are you failing forward or backward?