I don’t blame religion for our current predicament. Our Western world is obsessed with doing more, being better and engaging in unhealthy competition, especially with ourselves. I can’t help but wonder how we have gotten so caught up in this notion of perfection. Christianity tells us we are not perfect, but that we should attempt to be like Jesus, who is. It’s a set-up really because perfection doesn’t exist even if Jesus did. It’s a construct that makes us ill as we strive for the unattainable.
“At least you tried,” I hear a small voice say to me. It sounds like a cop-out, like a consolation prize for the just-missed opportunity to show just how perfect you can be.
Only we can’t be.
Brené Brown, an extraordinarily down-to-earth shame researcher who struggles every bit as much as everyone else, says in her recent book Daring Greatly:
Perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don’t exist in the human experience.
But oh! How we yearn to be just those things! If we are perfect, we might be seen. People might like us. We might finally be accepted. All clean and neat and fantastically ordered. If we are bulletproof, we will never, ever feel the creep of shame that rides our arteries up to our skulls and back down again.
But have you ever really liked a person you have viewed as perfect and impervious to any kind of mishap? I don’t think so. There is nothing loving and warm and wonderful about someone who tries to be immaculate. Oftentimes they are riddled with judgement, especially about themselves.
To be imperfect and vulnerable is to be human. And to be human is to be alive, making mistakes, getting upset and showing up even in the face of your greatest fear.
The very thing we run away from (the fear of getting hurt) is the very thing that, when we trust that process of opening up to the unknown, makes life worth living. It is that moment when we step on stage, knees knocking, heart pounding, palms sweating, mind whirling, and do it anyway.
Stepping on stage really means taking a risk. When you open your heart, it could get crushed. But to keep it closed means you won’t feel the flip side of fear, which is love.
And love is why we are here.
It’s ironic, isn’t it? It is as if we have to relive the birth experience over and over until we finally get it. Pain is a part of life. It is what ensures us that we get back on our path when we go astray.
And that’s what friends are for. They are the ones who hold your hand across those treacherous ravines, loving you even when you are broken. As Brené writes so beautifully, true friends are the people who love you for your vulnerability, not despite it.
Daring greatly means being in that arena, even if your prospects for success are slim. It’s not about winning, but about showing up and getting up. Time and again. Even when you fall.
I’m game. Are you?