Embracing Imperfection

I’d like to make a case for imperfection. This is not a minor suggestion, especially not coming from me, since I am by nature a perfectionist. Those who know me well, probably see ample evidence of this, so you can take their word for it too.

I can spot the ways this shows up in my life and maybe you’ll identify with some of them. I look down at my right hand and see an age spot there, what my granddaughter, Tessa, calls a “boo-boo”. Even her kissing it won’t make it go away.

I have several scars, only one from surgery for which I am very thankful. There are spots on the carpet next to my living room chair, a few small dings in my car and some unidentifiable stains on our beautiful front porch. It is my belief that I am not responsible for any of these, but who can know for sure?

There are also imperfections in my life. Two speeding tickets, a job loss, words I said that weren’t nice, people I’ve let down, investments that went south. You get the picture.

If you gave yourself a couple of minutes you could probably create your own list.

I’ve come to realize several things about all of this.

The first is that perfection is a person standard. I might share the same ideals with some, but others would no doubt see them differently.

Second, the price of my suffering depends on how high I set the bar. I don’t always see ‘perfection’ in the same light. There is sort of a sliding scale depending on how strict I’m feeling at the time.

Third, if I give myself some slack, I can see that there is almost no value to perfection. In fact, more and more, I see there is great value in imperfection. The slight crease in a page often turned because I’ve read a favorite book many times. The beautiful and intriguing laugh lines next to my wife’s eyes that say to me that she still enjoys my jokes. Feeling tired from a long walk that fed my soul, but exhausted my body, when it wouldn’t have a few years ago.

If I pay attention, I encounter lessons in imperfection all the time.

Here’s one.

When our upstairs bathroom was remodeled, I decided I wanted one of those mirrors that affixes to the wall and extends outward, so that I could bring it closer to me, which would really help when shaving. I bought one and began the installation process by using the template to mark the places to drill holes in the wall. I drilled the holes and screwed the back plate to the wall, then fitted the fixture over the top of the back plate. It fascinated and horrified me that once the fixture was secured it was off center, so that as the arm extended, it was angled rather than straight.

Maybe this might not bother you and I congratulate you if this is the case. But, for me, this was totally unacceptable.

I considered my options.

Taking it off the wall and starting the process over again was my first thought. However, there were a number of logistical problems with this I won’t bore you with.

So, what else?

Could I do the unthinkable? Could I accept the imperfect installation, especially knowing I would see this every day of my life?

I want you to know that it was not lost on me that while I was trying to make this decision, I was staring at my reflection in the off-center mirror. I saw a man with obvious blemishes of one kind or another. I saw a man who prized perfection, but could not achieve it. And I saw something else.

Something snapped in me. Something wonderful.

I discovered the beauty of imperfection. I accepted that the mirror was okay, just as it was. It was still usable and functional. And I released my need for the mirror to be exactly as I intended it to be and let it be as it was. I decide that my usual suffering was no longer as valuable as my accepting life as it came to me. And I shifted my perception and looked below my surface, realizing I too am perfect just as I am, with all of my imperfections.

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2 Replies to “Embracing Imperfection”

  1. Rob,
    Several years ago I was a participant on a men’s retreat and was told to read the book “The Spirituality of Imperfection” by
    Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketchman.
    Only when the book arrived did I realize that it was all about alcoholics anonymous.
    For years I have attended AA meetings as a guest due to my being a member of Al-Anon.

    The reason for my participation over these several years has been mainly for spiritual support for at that time there was no support groups for people who were attempting to live with a mental illness like my bipolar illness.
    I have read, reread and have used this book as a spiritual reference.

    Unfortunately when I would share at meetings about the topic of spirituality. It was often not readily and acceptable topic at some of the meetings I attended.

    Like

    1. I understand that it’s always challenging when folks around you choose not to accept your input as valid for them. It tends to force us to consider why they might feel as they do. Perhaps there were some who were open, but the group’s focus needed to remain on their primary goal. I hope what you had to say was still found to be valuable in the long run for those who heard you.

      Like

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