Demanding perfection from ourselves and others in this imperfect world is like wanting to take up a permanent residence in a Disney World. Ever seeking perfection without achieving it is our lot in life.
One of our most embarrassing moments any of us might experience is to have someone come to our door before we have gotten out of bed. We are looking our worst. We are not dressed, hair is all over the place (except for those of us who are bald) and we are not fully awake. We are at our lowest in appearance and function.
As such we approach the ringing bell at our front door. We might, however, just crack open the door to void disclosing the details of our PJs. Yet, this view of us in our early morning, is valid and authentic. It is the real me and you.
Without the "window dressing" each morning of getting ourselves "together" and ready for the day, we see ourselves as not presentable.
Probably our greatest effort to "get ourselves together" is the lengthy and anxious preparations demonstrated by each of us when we were dating. It takes but a few days of marriage for the bride and groom to have a full discovery of who they have married. [This statement needs serious amending since cohabitation precedes marriage for most couples today in America.]
Looking our best is a daily quest for most of us most of the time. As pastor over the years, I have often felt some guilt visiting those in the hospital. Not only lacking cosmetic amenities, but also disclosing a peaked and pale countenance, can make the hospital patient ashamed and upset. For this reason, some hospitalized patients direct that no visitors are to be admitted.
So it is that throughout our days and life we "put ourselves together" each morning, making ourselves "presentable" - to face the world.
Respect and acceptance of ourselves AS WE ARE would require suppressing our pride and would reward ourselves with a freedom from always trying to be what we’re not. It would not only be a HARD-SELL BUT AN IMPOSSIBLE-SELL to get any of us to meet the world each morning WITHOUT our basic daily maintenance routine - "window dressing". It would be a delightful mindset to say, "I'm ok as is and so is everyone else”.
An anxious preoccupation to look better than we are, might indicate we fail to respect ourselves as we are, forgetting that we are just as the Author of our being wants us to be. What a comfort it is to say, “I want to be just as I am”. What a self-imposed agony it is to ever seek to be what we are not.
Loving our neighbor as ourselves is a two-pronged directive. Refusing to love ourselves or neighbor is something of an affront to our Divine origin. We are all wonderfully created yet human – all of us far from perfect.
Ever seeking to improve ourselves while patiently bearing with our imperfections and those of others, can give us the clarity that we’re on earth… not yet in heaven.
Enjoying exactly who we are (in the epitome of our youth and beauty or in the throes of our geriatric decadence) and all persons as they are, prescribes a formula for enjoying life each day as we are given it.
The Rev. John Burkhart Ph.D, is a retired Episcopal priest and retired professor of psychology. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.