“If you look for perfection, you'll never be content.”
Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
“Have no fear of perfection - you'll never reach it.”
“I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence, I can reach for; perfection is God's business.”
Michael J. Fox
What, I wonder, causes us to make bad choices? I understand that it can be stress or the result of a physical problem or just being in a bad mood, but why are we imperfect, even when things are fine? In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve willingly disobeyed God even though they were in a beautiful environment with someone they loved. Life was perfect and they even had physical access to God. Still they messed things up. Most likely I would have done the same thing. I just don’t understand why. Maybe it’s a question best left to theologians, philosophers and people far smarter than me. Rather than spend a lot of time on the question, perhaps I can pose a different question.
How can I be a better man?
That’s really the more important question, isn’t it? It’s pretty obvious to anyone who has known me for more than five minutes that I’m imperfect. I let people down. I can be selfish. And angry. I’m inconsistent. I struggle with fear. I complain. I forget things that are important to others. Lately, it seems, I’ve made a habit of hurting people I love. I’m not a Nazi or a child molester or a psychopath, but I’ve done enough of my own damage. So what can I do about all of this?
First I need to accept who I am. Acceptance doesn’t mean I approve or even acquiesce to my baser nature. It simply means that I accept who I am, without condemning or criticizing myself. If I’m not perfect, I’m in good company (and bad). I’m right there with all the rest of humanity. I’m not better or worse than most others. I have to let go of the idea that I can or even should be perfect. To accept who I am, this requires presence.
Another thing I can do is fight my imperfections. This also requires presence. Fighting and acceptance seem to contradict each other, but I think they complement. Fighting my imperfection requires that I think before I speak. It requires that I consider other people’s perspectives and ideas. It requires a change in action. It requires that I accept my humanity without using it as an excuse. Jesus said, “Be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect.”
Some translations the word perfect here as “mature.” Maturity requires a change in perspective and behavior.
When my imperfections become obvious, I can also do my best to make amends. I can never change my actions of the past, but I can apologize for them. I can also change the way I do things now. Changing the past is impossible, but changing the present, and thus the future, is not only possible, it’s often preferable.
I don’t know if I want to be perfect, whatever that means. I do know that I want to be
· More loving
· A blessing
· More patient
· More peaceful
· More giving
· More industrious
Rather than focus on getting rid of my imperfection I want to, as Marcus Buckingham says, “Discover my strengths.”
I want to focus on what I do well and how I can make the world better. I don’t want to focus on perfection or imperfection. I want to focus on improvement. Improving is all I can really do, but if I really do improve and keep improving, it’s all I need to do. I also need to Get Started and Keep Going…even if I’m not perfect.