When the perfect comes, the imperfect shall pass away. – St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 13:10
When I was in school, the nuns drilled it into our heads that only God was perfect. Of course, then they expected perfection from us.
I dealt with some of this yesterday, when I posted that quote from Julia Cameron. I’ll repost it here for those of you who missed it.
No one can expect to get everything right the first time. You might get one or two parts of it right, but it requires practice and concentration to get it all right, and even then, you might get it wrong anyway. Maybe the best you can hope for is getting most of it right, or getting it right most of the time. The difficult thing is learning to accept that, but it’s critical that you do.
Harry Chapin is the first person I ever heard address the topic. He said that, when he decided to go into music, he had to learn to accept that he would be really bad at it for awhile. He said that on an episode he did of Soundstage, a show produced in Chicago by public TV station WTTW. Here is one song he did that night, from the actual show.
I’m afraid I was more like the guy in the song than I would have liked.
As the saying goes, no one’s perfect. About the best you can hope for is to be very good. And the other thing is, if you spend your time comparing yourself to everyone else and don’t do anything to make yourself better, you’ll never get anywhere.
February 18 will mark eleven years since I had my stroke. I’ve had to learn to live with imperfection and limitation ever since. When I was in the hospital, my parish sent someone with Communion every day. On Sundays, it was Sister Lucy, a wonderful nun from either West Africa or Haiti. This one Sunday, I was feeling sorry for myself, and I was complaining to her about how far I had to go to get back to normal. I’ll never forget what she said: “But, look how far you’ve come!” And she was right: when I woke up after several days of sleep, I couldn’t feel the right side of my body. I had to relearn how to walk and deal with the stairs, and while I was far from perfect, I had managed to do that in just under a month. Since then, I’ve learned to cope with my limitations. Is it perfect? Hardly. But it’s better than it was.
My motto since then has been “Progress, Not Perfection.”
I only wish I had learned it much sooner.