Headmaster's Blog

Lapse or Relapse?

“Here I go again”, said the middle aged lady. “Two or three cream buns too many and the diet is ruined. I will never lose weight.”
“I know what you mean”, said her brother. I promised that I would go to the Gym every day for three hours each morning. It lasted one week. I was so tired that I gave up and now I look and feel like an Oompa Loompa again”.

Lapse or relapse. There is a big difference. A lapse is a simple mistake. It happens to everyone: A relapse is a return to old habits.

Any worthwhile goal will start with a road that is plagued with lapses. Successful people can see it. They put a lapse behind them and redouble their efforts and their resolve. “OK – I had one cream bun too many today – no big deal – that’s just one extra lap around the oval tonight and a resolve to say no tomorrow. Others, like those with poor self-esteem or addicts see one lapse as the end of the road –  “I knew I couldn’t do it. Who was I kidding? Fancy wasting that money and joining a Gym. Now I am a laughing stock”. “Fancy thinking I could be a nurse – I’m dumb. No point studying”

Psychiatrists say that a lapse is an important part of reaching a goal. It gives a person the chance to beat up on themselves a little and then to reset the target. Lapses remind us all that we have actually come a long way. A temporary setback can galvanise our will to succeed.

So what about Relapse? Three adult sized pizzas whilst in the middle of a weight-loss program that
started yesterday is hardly a lapse. Someone who needs good results in a course and yet finds a hundred reasons not do the assignments or study for the exam is hardly a lapse. There are certainly times when a dose of reality and a firm directive from parents or a friend is both warranted and necessary. The road to failure is paved with good intentions and feeble actions.

Alcoholics know that their habit has cost them their health, their relationships, their freedom, their careers and eventually will cost them their lives, yet mental health experts know that 40 to 60% of alcoholics will end up relapsing. In every case, it started with one lapse: One lapse that they interpreted as the end of the road to recovery. There are things that you can do to avoid relapse. It helps to:

  • Work on your willpower – keep picturing the reward at the end of the road
  • Ask a friend to keep you to account (you will need someone who has your interests at heart)
  • Be patient – anything worth doing takes persistence and dedication
  • Get healthy and get sleep. You will sleep well if you are tired.
  • Avoid situations and people who are easily led or who are not determined to help you
  • Remember that a lapse is normal
  • Know that a lapse is not a relapse

Our academic and pastoral care program at the College is designed to give all students a fresh start for the second half of the year. It is a fresh page with no detentions recorded yet. It could be a good time to make some decisions about what you would like to achieve and what changes you will need to make to achieve it. Be ready for one or two lapses along the way. Lapses are just that – no need to relapse into old habits.

Remember that God forgives. In forgiving us, God actually sets an important template for how we should live. He gives us permission to also forgive ourselves. He sees our lapse and understands. He sees it for what it is. It is a lapse and not a relapse. Maybe we should see it that way too.

Failure is often the line of least persistence