The Mutually Exclusive Self

If you haven’t guessed already, I process through the written word. Which is basically the reason for the existence of this blog, and my old one (guys, I’ve been blogging for SIX YEARS. I’m not old enough to have a half-dozen anniversary for my blog!). Anyways, I also process through extended e-mail conversations. It was during one of these electronic epistles that I found myself typing this absurdity:

“If I don’t do something perfectly the first time, I feel like I failed. Even if I go back and make it better, it still doesn’t feel good enough because it wasn’t PERFECT. THE FIRST TIME.”

When I see my words staring back at me, I realize I’m probably certifiable. Because I would also eagerly and honestly tell you that at 22 years of age, I don’t know everything (or much of anything), and I love learning new skills and perfecting old ones, and I want to be a life-long learner. Which is mutually exclusive with viewing imperfection at the first try as failure.

This isn’t a new internal paradox, of course. I was that sickeningly annoying college student that actually wasn’t happy unless I got 100%. It didn’t matter if I got an A, I wasn’t satisfied until I could prove that I had absolutely mastered (or memorized) the material. And once I hit the 100% level–I wanted more. See, this sick cycle NEVER ENDS. If there was extra credit on the table, I’d better get over 100%, otherwise, I was a failure. I’m sharing this in the hopes that there are others suffering from the same incompatible mindsets: trying to learn and grow while accepting nothing short of perfection.

If you’re like me, can we make a pinky promise together? That the next time we aren’t perfect in our first attempts, we’ll stop telling ourselves we’re failures? We are learners. We are brave souls willing to make mistakes to do better next time. Even if better isn’t perfection.

My Feeble Attempt

I like quotes.  Mostly because they do what I never can.  They  take a thought, an idea, an emotion and turn it into a sentence or two.  It usually takes me more like a paragraph or two.  Sometimes I browse the web for quotes when its a rainy day out like today and nothing is really pressing on my shoulders right now and I need some new ideas to fill my brain with.  The one above is a good example of your typical internet quote.  It is decently nice.  It is also decently egotistical.  I browsed a bit down the comments about this one and one read:  “Don’t you ever forget, You Are Perfect!” 

That’s a really nice thought.  A really nice thought that’s really false.  You aren’t perfect.  I’m not perfect.  We never will be.  I don’t even have a good proportion of doing things right to messing up.  In fact, I’d estimate that I mess up 8.48 times for every one time that I actually do something right.  But that’s just a rough guess.

I’m okay with that.  I want to do better in every area of my life but there is something to be said for imperfection.  It makes us vulnerable.  It tears down some of judgment walls if we would just realize that everyone is just as broken as we are and we are just a group of fallen people feebly trying to hold each other up while resting in the incredible grace of the God who created and saved us.

It also makes the small perfections in life even more beautiful.  The innocence of children is even more precious, the sincere smile from a stranger even more encouraging.

We are wonderfully made and known by name by an incredible God, yes.  Perfect we are not.