Beauty in imperfection

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Photo: BBC/Reuters

This week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had to wait on the gangway of her plane after she landed in Prague, while soldiers adjusted the red carpet.

That amazes me, it actually made me chuckle, and I even caught myself with a racist thought. Particular European nations do seem to have perfectionist tendancies. Isn’t it worse to make her wait than to have a slightly crooked carpet?!

And yet maybe it’s not so far from my own actions sometimes: missing the point of what’s important, in order to get something ‘just so’?

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A man would do nothing if he waited until he could do it so well that no one could find fault.  ~John Henry Newman

He that will have a perfect brother must resign himself to remain brotherless.  ~Italian Proverb

You see, when weaving a blanket, an Indian woman leaves a flaw in the weaving of that blanket to let the soul out.  ~Martha Graham

Ring the bells that still can ring, Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything, That’s how the light gets in. ~Leonard Cohen

Imperfection is Beauty – Marilyn Monroe

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. (The Bible, 2 Corinthians chapter 4, verse 7. New Living Translation)

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Reflecting on a passage in the bible which speaks about ‘treasure in jars of clay’ comforts me about not only the inevitability but also the beauty of imperfection. If a jar of clay containing a light is perfect then you don’t see the light much. If the jar is cracked and imperfect then the light shines through. The ‘treasure’ in me is the life, light and power of Jesus. I’m ‘cracked’, imperfect, and so it’s clear that who I am and any good that comes from me is because of the light inside, not because of me. And that’s a good thing.

In fact another snippet from the bible goes even further – God saying: “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) When I am feeling weak, having come to the end of myself – to the end of my own strength and ideas, it’s often at that point that I realise I can’t do it alone and invite God into the situation, and he shifts the whole thing around. Then I know I can’t claim the credit, it was clearly Him not me. That’s when his strength is able to work more freely and be seen even better through my weakness. So maybe some falability, weakness, imperfection is a good thing?

So much of what happens around me and so much of what I do is driven by a fear of failure, a fear of getting things wrong, a fear of letting people down, a fear of what people will think. But letting go of that fear is making me more free, more able to live life to the full. And when I get things wrong and let people down, I have to swallow my pride and say sorry, admit that I am not perfect and live with it (I’m not good at that but I am trying to learn). And then there is room for the light to shine out rather than a perfect uncracked pot to be celebrated.

Do you ever let a fear of failure hold you back? What might happen if you started to let go of that fear?

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“Congratulations!  You’re not perfect!  It’s ridiculous to want to be perfect anyway.  But then, everybody’s ridiculous sometimes, except perfect people.  You know what perfect is?  Perfect is not eating or drinking or talking or moving a muscle or making even the teensiest mistake.  Perfect is never doing anything wrong – which means never doing anything at all.  Perfect is boring!  So you’re not perfect!  Wonderful!  Have fun!  Eat things that give you bad breath!  Trip over your own shoelaces!  Laugh!  Let somebody else laugh at you!  Perfect people never do any of those things.  All they do is sit around and sip weak tea and think about how perfect they are.  But they’re really not one-hundred-percent perfect anyway.  You should see them when they get the hiccups!  Phooey!  Who needs ’em?  You can drink pickle juice and imitate gorillas and do silly dances and sing stupid songs and wear funny hats and be as imperfect as you please – people like that are a lot more fun than perfect people any day of the week.”  ~Stephen Manes, Be a Perfect Person in Just Three Days!

Does “anal-retentive” have a hyphen?  ~Anon

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