.. Parker Palmer’s words:
“Wholeness is the goal, but wholeness does not mean perfection. It means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life.”
I remember being surprised that I resonated so deeply with the quote. I actually didn’t consider myself a perfectionist — it felt impossible when I was constantly haunted by all the mistakes I make, everywhere, all the time.
Perfectionism is my water, I’m telling you! But I’m thankful to writers like Parker who have gifted me with the language of wholeness, that beautiful and difficult alternative to perfection. This week’s On Being guest, physician and storyteller Rachel Naomi Remen, is another healthy critic of our perfectionist culture, which she calls “a major addiction of our time.”
.. “Wholeness is never lost, it is only forgotten.”
.. What a wise way to frame wholeness — not as an achievement, but rather as the reality of being present to who we are, in its entirety, at this very moment.
.. “There are no shortcuts to wholeness. The only way to become whole is to put our arms lovingly around everything we’ve shown ourselves to be: self-serving and generous, spiteful and compassionate, cowardly and courageous, treacherous and trustworthy. We must be able to say to ourselves and to the world at large, ‘I am all of the above.’”
Perfection is not the elimination of imperfection. Divine perfection is the ability to recognize, forgive, and include imperfection–just as God does with all of us... What seems to distinguish those who are most deeply and wholly human is not their perfection, but their courage in accepting their imperfections. Accepting themselves as they are, they then become able to accept others as they are.
In general, the more perfectionistic, legalistic, and ritualistic you are, the less contemplative you are.
For the contemplative, God becomes more a verb than a noun, more a process than a conclusion, more an experience than a dogma, more a personal relationship than an idea. The Christ is a Living Word long before he was a written or spoken word.
No wonder all of the great liturgical prayers of the churches end with the phrase: “through Christ our Lord, Amen.” We do not pray to Christ; we pray through Christ.
The core task of all good spirituality is to teach us to “cooperate” with what God already wants to do and has already begun to do through us (see Romans 8:28). In fact, nothing good or life-giving would even enter our minds unless in the previous moment God had already “moved” within us! We are always and forever merely “seconding the motion.” God makes the first motion.
Ellison’s jet “had a door between cabins with an open button and a close button,” Isaacson writes. “Jobs insisted that his have a single button that toggled. He didn’t like the polished stainless steel of the buttons, so he had them replaced with brushed metal ones.” Having hired Ellison’s designer, “pretty soon he was driving her crazy.” Of course he was. The great accomplishment of Jobs’s life is how effectively he put his idiosyncrasies—his petulance, his narcissism, and his rudeness—in the service of perfection.