What if I know you’re not perfect, and I love and admire you anyway? There’s no such thing as perfection in nature. Nature models this everywhere. Flowers are perfectly imperfect: a curled leaf, a twisted stem, or a misshapen petal. Oranges are perfectly imperfect: not quite round, not uniformly orange, and with bruises on the skin. No two sunsets are the same: in clear weather they can be glorious spectacles; in stormy weather they can be barely noticeable. While we have preferences, there's no single model of perfection: no perfect flower, orange, or sunset. And that's true for humans as well.
Once we've learned to accept imperfection in our outer world, why not accept it in ourselves? We can have high quality standards, and still be at peace with our flaws. We accept new releases of software knowing that they arrive with bugs. Every version we download is a work in progress - with debugging happening after it comes to market. It’s comforting to consider that each of us too, is a work in progress.
Each of us is perfectly imperfect: our size, shape, personality, and intellect. The variations are intriguing; they make us who we are. Margaret Meade, the noted anthropologist, said, "Always remember that you are absolutely unique; just like everyone else." But when it comes to judging ourselves, we often focus on the imperfect part of perfectly imperfect, in our health, diet, jobs, communication, and relationships. And our behavior in these arenas is what we judge most harshly. We set standards of perfection we believe we should live up to, and we fall short of our goals.
There are many times when I'm disappointed by my own conduct. I shy away from gossip - talking about people behind their backs. Yet last evening I was with friends who were eager to hear my opinion about something going on in the life of a mutual friend. As I was speaking I was feeling disloyal and regretting it. Regret is a strong signal. Although it felt good to share my opinion, I regretted being disloyal - both at the same time. Regret won. I couldn't take back what I had already said, but I could put my foot on the brakes and say no more.
Ashleigh Brilliant, the inspirational cartoonist, said, "I may not be totally perfect, but parts of me are excellent." Regret and remorse are among the excellent parts of us. Regret is a call for attention, an alert that there's a bug in our software. Regret directs us to a behavioral upgrade. And regret need not include self-condemnation. We are only hard on ourselves when we forget that to err is human; that it’s our natural state to be perfectly imperfect.
Like flowers, like software releases, we too are perfectly imperfect; there's no other way to be. Regret shows us the bugs in our design. When regret highlights an imperfection, let’s learn from it, not in an effort to create perfection, but because we're a work in progress. Fixing the bugs in our programming is part of the perfectly imperfect functioning of the universe. Can we love and respect that in ourselves?