I am a Perfectionist on the Enneagram, a great self-awareness/personality test. I work hard to subdue my perfectionist tendencies, but it creeps in regularly, particularly in my attitude toward myself. I give myself very little slack, always pushing. Slowly, I am learning that life is too short to always be grinding forward. I am also realizing that I tend to impose on others what I impose on myself, even if I am not obvious about it.
We are all such imperfect human beings. I’m not talking about the blatant, evil imperfections like lying and cruelty, but small quirks we see in others that can be so irritating. They may run late, forget to make the bed, leave dishes in the sink, be inattentive, act like a grump. These imperfections grate on relationships and build up until all we see are the imperfections.
This is where grace comes in. The Bible calls this kind of grace forbearance. God forbears with us all the time, being described as “slow to anger.” In the great chapter on love, 1 Corinthians 13, the Apostle Paul writes “love bears all things.” In other words, love is great at extending grace. Extending grace, first to ourselves, and then to others changes our relationships and changes our lives.
François Fénelon, a 17th century Archbishop and spiritual advisor, is one of my favorite authors. He speaks with absolute clarity about bearing with imperfections in his book titled, Let Go.
- Do not be overly concerned about your defects. Instead concentrate on having an unceasing love for Jesus, and you shall be much forgiven, because you have loved much. [Luke 7:47] (p. 25)
- When we look at our defects in peace through the spirit of Jesus, they vanish before the majesty of His love. (p. 25)
- Satan is the one who torments us with trivialities. And he often transforms himself into an angel of light, and bothers us with endless self-examinations and an over-sensitive conscience which allows no peace. (p. 10)
- If there is one mark of perfection, it is simply that it can tolerate the imperfections of others. (p. 50)
- The most perfect people in the world have many imperfections, and so do we. And sometimes it is quite difficult for us to tolerate each other. We are to ‘bear one another’s burdens,’ and I think this means, among other things, that we are to bear the burden of each other’s imperfections. (p. 43)
Grace changes everything! If we become consumed by grace, grace toward ourselves, grace toward others, I believe our entire world will take on a different hue. Kindness would replace judgment. Peace would replace tension. Joy would replace frustration. Oh, how our relationships would blossom if infused with more grace!
P.S. I have included a copy of Fénelon’s book titled Spiritual Progress, which contains the section on grace from Let Go. Located in the table of contents under Spiritual Letters, Number 13, under it’s original title: Despair at our Imperfection is a greater Obstacle than the Imperfection itself. It begins on page 187.
Spiritual Progress, Or, Instructions in the Divine Life of the Soul by François Fénelon. Originally published in 1853.
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