“I blew it.” That’s all my son said when the game was over and we started home. Then — silence. He was quiet for a good, long while.

Finally, after quietly mulling things over for a time and sorting through his feelings, he talked about what he should have done, what he could have done differently, and what he did wrong. Even though an entire team lost the football game, that loss had somehow become all his own doing. His little shoulders were drooped and his heart was heavy.

All of the praise or positive input I might offer at that time would have gone in one ear and out the other. He could see only that he had blown the game. Although no tears dripped from his eyes, I could feel his pain and sense his despair. It was not yet the proper time to try to reason with my son and help him see beyond his bitter disappointment and self-inflicted shame. In fact, that heaviness remained with him for quite a while.

Regardless of the scenario, most of us have had times when we felt as though we “blew it” — as though we irretrievably messed up and foiled our forward progress. These feelings of aching discouragement are like little mountains to climb as we move forward in understanding and in mastering self. That’s easy to say, but hard to accomplish!

The “coulda-shoulda- woulda” syndrome can eat us up at times, can’t it?  And yet, once we get past the initial reactive state, our reasoning ability allows us to put things in proper perspective. Like sorting chaff from grain, we can learn a lesson when needed, shift thought processes, and leave the scarring of discouragement behind while we carry with us the experience that will help us in the future.

When the Savior invites us to “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27) surely he would have us sort through those troubles and fears that may apply to any earthly experiences — even football games — that would trouble our minds and darken our spirits. When mistakes are made — when we “blow it” — we can look to him to soothe our troubled souls and calm our hearts. Not to displace our responsibility, but to put the incident in its proper place. Make sense?

Regardless of how it is dressed, the tool of discouragement takes the wind out of our sails and may stop us in our tracks. Better to address the realities of the incident, accept our own portion of responsibility for what we said or did — or neglected to say or do, and then determine to do better next time!

The following fable helps us understand the insidiousness of the “I blew it” syndrome.

Discouragement — A Tool of the Devil

Once upon a time it was announced that the devil was going out of business and would sell all his equipment to those who were willing to pay the price.

On the big day of the sale, all his tools were attractively displayed. There were tools of Envy, Jealousy, Hatred, Malice, Deceit, Sensuality, Pride, Idolatry, and others flauntingly exhibited. Each of the tools was marked with its own price tag.

Over in the corner by itself was a harmless looking, wedge-shaped tool very much worn, but bearing a higher price than any of the others. Someone asked the devil what it was, and he answered, “That is the tool of Discouragement.”

The next question came quickly,” And why is it priced so high even though it is worn more than these others?”

“Because,” replied the devil, “It is more useful to me than all these others. I can pry open and get into a man’s heart with that when I cannot get near him with any other tool. Once I get inside, I can use him in whatever way suits me best. It is worn well because it is so easy to use on so many people, and few folks even know it belongs to me.”

Although each of the tools on display was too costly to purchase, no one even thought of bidding on the tool of Discouragement. It still very much belongs to the devil, and is well used even today.

This tool is effective because it causes us to focus inwardly. Regardless of how it masquerades, at its core is self-pity. Because of our human nature, we may gravitate to that position on occasion — especially when we feel as though we have let others down. But there is a better way. President Gordon B. Hinckley sums it up in these words:

Spare yourselves from the indulgence of self-pity. It is always self-defeating. Subdue the negative and emphasize the positive. Count your blessings and not your problems ( Ensign , November 1985, p.86).

For you and for me to distance ourselves from the “I blew it” syndrome, we may want to follow a few simple procedures when the weight of that gloomy feeling bears on us:

  • Pick up the pace
  • Pick up the scriptures
  • Pick up the pieces and hold it together
  • Talk with someone we trust
  • Lean on the Savior
  • Pick up our troubled self and move forward

Eventually I was able to have a conversation with my son. Hopefully, it helped a bit. But those moments have come for him many times since and will, undoubtedly, come again. They come to me, as well.

But I better recognize it when it closes in on me. I note the source from which it comes. And I know from whence my help comes (see Psalms 33:20, Psalms 46:1, and Mark 8:24.) In time, and with concerted effort, I believe that we can erase those words “I blew it, and the accompanying damaging thoughts, from our hearts and minds!