Living With Imperfection

Lots of us miss some of life's best things and are then heard to say, "I don't know how to do that. I'd make a fool of myself by even trying it."

A fellow I know tried to water ski -- once. He tried to get up on the skis three or four times that day. Each time he tried, he wound up tumbling into the water. The three guys along with him all coached. They also all laughed at his frustration. "One last time," he yelled. When he was yanked off his skis and into the lake again, he swam to the boat. He was uptight for the remainder of the day. And he has never tried to water ski again in the thirty years since.

Perfectionists settle for nothing short of a first-rate performance from themselves. When they come across something that has to be learned through trial and error, they become intolerant of their limitations. They pile up points in the things they do with skill and efficiency, while ignoring or putting down what they do poorly.

People with this bent of personality tend toward depression, for no one is capable of premier performances at everything. They get so tense they sometimes botch even the things they normally do best. They never relax. They remove risks by narrowing their interests. They get in safe, comfortable, and boring ruts.

It's liberating for some people to find out they can make mistakes and survive. The world doesn't end if your bright idea flops. You won't die if you mess up in front of your peers. You are not worthless if someone hears you sing off-key.

Thank God for mistakes! They let you learn. They mean you are still pushing out your personal horizons. They give you a chance to grow. They let the rest of us know you are still one of us.

If you were perfect, life would be terribly dull. There'd be nothing new to learn. No more challenges. No relationships with peers. The rest of us would likely be too intimidated to talk to you, work alongside you, or play tennis with you. And you certainly wouldn't need anyone of inferior status and ability to care about you.

Don't be paralyzed by your fears. Whatever you want to do well is likely going to be mastered at the end of a process involving miscues and false starts. But if it's worth doing at all, it's worth doing poorly. So give it a shot. Learn a new computer program. Write a poem. Take piano lessons. Paint a room. Water ski. Love someone.

At the cross, God showed us how creative He can be with what looked to all the world to be an abject failure. So give Him a chance with you.

© Rubel Shelly

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