I love Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen’s teachings in her book Kitchen Table Wisdom. Here is one of them:

“The life in us is diminished by judgment far more frequently than by disease.”

Do you worry about what other people are thinking when you tell them you are living with chronic illness?

I used to. I worried that I would be seen as weak or worse—lazy and a failure (all of these are judgments), especially since my illness was not clearly visible. And the natural response for many people was to offer me assistance, often in the form of unsolicited advice. They usually meant well, but the unspoken message I got was that if I didn’t take their advice, then it meant that I probably wanted to stay sick (another judgment).

Truly such judgments can diminish the life in us. We do this to ourselves, too, through self-judgment, making the healing path unnecessarily difficult. We might believe that if we can’t “do” the things we did before, that we are failures. This is judgment, with a capital “J,” and it is nonsense.

About 20 years ago I walked by a window and saw an embossed metal paperweight. It read, “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” I had to think. What did I want to do, but fear of failure held me back? What negative self-judgments were preventing me from living my life?

This is the challenge and opportunity of chronic illness.

Within reason, of course, what would you do if you knew you could not fail? Might you be willing to act in the world as if you could not fail? It takes courage to manifest your dreams, but the result is you get to live a much better life!

I bought the paperweight. When things get difficult, I hold it in my hand, determined to act without fear of failure, knowing failure is part of life’s journey, but that I am not a failure, and neither are you!