The one trouble with acknowledging that “Nobody’s perfect” is that it can be an excuse for not improving or apologizing.
I may take up two parking spaces; I may cut ahead in the checkout line; I may spill coffee on my supervisor’s expensive white blouse: but hey, no one should be so unreasonable as to expect me to get everything right every time, right? Then there’s the respectable citizen who reads a Bible and surfs pornographic websites at the same desk, goes to church on Sunday and pads his expense account on Monday—and smugly sports a bumper sticker that reads, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.”
Forgiving mistakes and making allowances for weaknesses is one thing. An attitude of “I’m as good as I ever care to get and I don’t see why my friends/my employer/the law should expect any more” is another matter.
As parents, we (hopefully) realize there’s a difference between how fast children dress themselves at age three, age seven, and age fourteen. We assign chores and allowances based on level of experience. We hardly expect schools to teach algebra in third grade. Yet we often act as if once someone “grows up” physically, they’re as close to perfect as they ever can be expected to get. As if, because science considers the human brain fully mature around age twenty-five, no one can learn new skills or break an old habit at twenty-six, or thirty-six, or sixty-six.
It doesn’t matter if medical science eventually makes it possible to live to 606: no one will ever learn everything there is to know, or rid themselves of every fault.
Even if we were capable of that, life would get pretty boring with no room left to grow—as all too many people who consider themselves “good enough” find out through painful experience. Their jobs are good enough to pay the bills, so they put up with an atmosphere of mindless drudgery week after week. Their daily habits are good enough not to get them fired or arrested, so they make the same improvement-sabotaging mistakes again and again. Their relationships are good enough to keep them from being completely isolated, so they endure year after year of the same old fights, uncomfortable secrets, or even abuse.
And their kids are good enough for their personal idea of the typical family, so they take the kids’ side against neighbors and teachers without even listening to the other party’s point of view. Or they fight the kids’ growing independence because loss of the small-child-and-dutiful-parent comfort zone feels like a personal threat.
But, really, is that the sort of life lesson we want to teach our children: that growing beyond a certain point is wasteful, that adult life is a treadmill of (theoretically) comfortable monotony? Wouldn’t they (and we) be better off living in ever-expanding potential, neither perfect nor just forgiven, but getting better every day and enjoying every moment of the journey?
What have you done this week to help yourself move just a little closer to perfect?