Yesterday a good friend told me she felt like a failure. This is one of the saddest things to hear someone you care about say, but all the same, it is just as important for the sympathetic ear as it is the one in the throes of doubt to remember the truth of it. Failure is always a nightmare from which we have chosen not to awaken. Nightmares are scary things and for good reason—they are a worse case scenario alternate reality, a living dystopia of the mind. All the science fiction you have ever read about robot overlords or sorting people by the color of their hair or post-apocalyptic wastelands are worlds built on fear. So too is the nightmare of failure.
If someone comes to you singing the sad song of failure, your first responsibility is to yourself. If you are to be of any use to anyone, you must not believe the nightmare. You cannot argue with it; you cannot challenge it; you cannot run from it. Only someone who believes the nightmare would run from, argue with, or challenge the nightmare. And although your friend would not intend it as such, the song he or she sings is a siren song, inviting you to believe the nightmare. If your friend believes in a nightmare, then the only option is to destroy it, and only someone who sees it as real can help destroy it.
But it cannot be destroyed because it is not real. And because merely disbelieving is not a direction, your only choice is to hold the light. And not just the light in your friend, or in yourself, but in the entire world. A tall order perhaps, but there is no other option. If one can fail, all can fail, and the nightmare is real again.
And so you hold the light. Beyond the veil of the nightmare there always shines the light, although the veil is heavier in some than in others, and the light more obscured. But it is there, as sure as your friend is there, and if you hold the light, perhaps your friend will see it too and recognize it and the spell will be broken. Or perhaps not. But there is no tragedy in someone believing a lie for another day, or another month, or another year. It would only be a tragedy if the light could be extinguished, which it cannot—it will burn on, awaiting everyone’s return.