The Fear of Failure

Reflection on the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30)   

The man who was given the one talent (a talent is a coin of immense value), because he was afraid of his master and his master’s judgment and of failure, buried his one talent.  He thought what his master had given him was too valuable to be put at risk by using it – even though the master had given it to him for a purpose.   He decided to give back to his master exactly what his master had entrusted to him.  St. Martyr Maria Skobtsova, who died in a Nazi concentration camp in 1945) writes about such fear of failure and judgment:  

“Why were the prophets stoned?  Because mankind had learned to be afraid of freedom.  Because mankind knew where this freedom had led it.  It knew that with freedom of choice it might follow the prophets or it might sink into the final abyss. 

No, better not to risk, not to try, not to be tempted, not to be seduced.  What is due is measured precisely.  A tithe of mint goes to the temple.  You don’t accomplish much on this path, but on the other hand you don’t risk anything. 

Immobility is a guarantee against new shocks, catastrophes, tragic shifts.  It is also a guarantee against liberation, against melting down – all right, but it’s still better, solider, calmer this way.

And so the prophets were stoned.”   (Mother Maria Skobtsova, Essential Writings, p 121)