In the heart of rural China, there lived an old woman who had two large pots. One had a crack in it; the other was perfect. Each day the woman hung each pot on one end of a pole and carried them across her neck as she made the long walk to the stream for water. Each day when she arrived home, the cracked pot would be only half full. The woman noticed but never complained.
For years she simply continued her routine, enjoying her walks and her days. And bringing home a pot and a half of water.
Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it could only do half of what it had been made to do.
After years of what it perceived as abject failure, it finally said to the woman as she was filling it at the stream.“I am so ashamed. Every day I lose half of the water I am supposed to carry back to the house for you because of this crack in my side.”
The old woman looked at the pot with twinkling eyes, “Oh, but have you noticed all the flowers beside the path? They are on your side not on the other pot’s side. You see, I knew from the beginning that you had a ‘flaw.’ It is the reason I planted flower seeds on your side of the path. You water them every day as we walk home. The fresh flowers that decorate my table are there because of you. Without your uniqueness, I would never been able to enjoy such beauty and share it with others who come to my home.”
The pot was silent. Then relieved.Then in awe. All this time it had been serving an important purpose without realizing it. This new perspective changed the way the cracked pot saw everything. It was at peace with itself. It was at peace with the other pot. It was honored to remain in the service of the woman.
A deep, thought-provoking story this is.
What if we add value to the world through our seeming “inadequacies”? Perhaps we need to open to a broader view. Does God make mistakes in the way he creates us? Could it be that we are unaware of the perfection of our imperfections.
This week I invite you to look at ways in which you feel lacking or defective. With courageand compassion for yourself, you can stretch your perspective and find new ways to appreciate characteristics you have considered to be hopeless flaws.
Re-think your definition of “perfect.”
Actually, the word perfect as it comes to us from Greek philosophers like Aristotle means complete, with nothing to add or subtract. In this view, you were born complete with all the capacity to develop personal greatness. You simply can tap into more of what is already inside you, more of who you are created to be.
As they say, “God don’t make no junk.” In fact, you are a wonderful creation of God, and he is at work in you. A Christian song I heard often in my childhood by singer Steve Green affirms this view: “. . .He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it, He who started a work, will be faithful to complete it in you.”
Beware of perfectionism.
Brene Brown, author of the outstanding book The Gifts of Imperfection, asserts that, “Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best. . . . Perfectionism is, at its core, is about trying to earn approval and acceptance.” She goes on to say that when we buy into perfectionism, “We adopt [a]dangerous and debilitating belief system: I am what I accomplish and how well I accomplish it. Please. Perform. Perfect. . . Perfectionism is other-focusedwhat will they think?”
Don’t let perfectionism weigh you down. Ms. Brown describes this painfully, imprisoning viewpoint as a, “. . . twenty ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from taking flight.”
Wholesome self-development asks the question, “How can I become the best me that I can be?” Will you make mistakes as you seek to learn and grow? Sure you will! That’s why pencils have erasers. Making mistakes is part of being human. The point is to use errors, failures or “flaws” to redirect ourselves and grow.
Release yourself from unrealistic standards. Shift your focus. “The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself” (Anna Quindlen).
Stop the comparison game.
Forget comparison. Move into creativity. When we compare ourselves to others our energy and focus is on them, not us. This mindset leaves us drained and discouraged. Brene Brown points out, “It’s so easy to take our eyes off our path to check out what others are doing and if they’re ahead of us or behind us. Creativity is the expression of our originality, helps us stay mindful that what we bring to the world is completely original and cannot be compared. And, without comparison, concepts like ahead or behind or best or worst lose their meaning.”
You are original. I am original. Every human being is an original. Let’s channel our energy into positive self-expression. Concentrate on fine-tuning the masterpiece you are.
Let your “cracks”make you compassionate.
One effective way to use your “cracks” is to make room for the “cracks” in others. You aren’t alone in the struggles of life. Everyone has fears and weaknesses. Be slow to judge. In his song “Anthem”, Leonard Cohen says it all: “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” Rather than frantically spackling your cracks trying to look perfect, let them lead you toward maturity. The more mature we are, the more gentle and empathetic we become towards the defects of others.
Take another look at your imperfections.Your quirks make you who you are. The cracked pot was creating colorful wild flowers. And did you know that crystals with imperfections make the best semi-conductors in electronics? Ask God for a new way to view what you perceive to be as your weak points. Consider the words of poet E.E. Cummings, “To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody but yourselfmeans to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fightand never stop fighting.”
If you are like most people, your toughest critic is yourself. How might life change if you were kind to yourself if you no longer spent time in self-destructive thinking and instead, offered yourself tenderness? “A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life”(Christopher K. Germer).
How self-compassionate are you? You can find out by visiting www.self-comapssion.org . Click on “Test to see how Self-compassionate you are.” Answer the questions with honesty to see where you fall on the self-compassion spectrum. Chances are you may find that you have plenty of room to be kinder to yourself.