“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)
This is a most unhelpful verse of all verses in the Bible, for me. I am sure by now you know that I am imperfect. And you know what? I will never be perfect. Sorry to disappoint some of you. 😊 Truth be told I won’t even try. As far as I am concerned, it’s a futile goal. Over the years I have learned to accept myself for who I am, embrace the beauty of imperfection and also delight in the gifts of imperfection.
Those who knows me know that I love to visit Japan, enjoy its delightful culture, immaculate gardens and mouth-watering food. On the surface, Japan seems like a nation built on orderly perfection, but the country’s long-held philosophy of wabi sabi is all about embracing the beauty of imperfection.
Wabi-Sabi is an ancient aesthetic philosophy that is rooted in Zen Buddhism. This traditional Japanese aesthetic is a worldview that is centred on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. Wabi-Sabi bowls are a symbol of purity and simplicity in which they are handmade and irregularly shaped, with uneven shape, glaze, cracks, and a beauty in the deliberate imperfection. The Japanese chase after excellence not perfection!
The Gifts of Imperfection
Released in 2010, The Gifts of Imperfection is a New York Times bestseller by researcher, speaker, and author Brené Brown. I love her books. In this book, ‘The Gifts of Imperfection’ she explores the theory and practices behind ‘Wholehearted living’: a concept Brown devised after years of research into shame, vulnerability, and self-worth. According to Brown, worthiness is the conviction that you are good enough as you are, flaws and all, and deserve to be loved. In simpler terms, feeling worthiness is having high self-esteem.
Brown’s research suggests that there are three values that you need to practice to increase your sense of worthiness:
- Ordinary courage: Being brave enough to be vulnerable and honestly express who you are, how you feel, and what you’ve experienced (for example, having the courage to admit to your boss that you’re struggling with your workload and need help)
- Compassion: Being kind to yourself and others
- Connection: In Brown’s view, an intangible energy generated when we form an open, judgment-free, and mutually sustaining bond with another person. (More simply, understand connection as building meaningful and fulfilling relationships with others.)
In short, these three values are the ‘gifts of imperfection’ referred to in the book’s title. They’re ‘gifts’ of imperfection because they come about only when you’re willing to be vulnerable. You develop the courage to accept that you’re imperfect, and you connect with other people because they empathize with your vulnerability. Finally, you become compassionate with other people because you realize nobody’s perfect and forgive their imperfections. In contrast, if we all lived perfect lives free from vulnerability, struggles, and mistakes, we’d never need to put these values into practice—meaning we’d never reap their benefits.
Don’t waste your energy chasing after perfection. You are good enough as you are, flaws and all, and deserve to be loved. God loves you. As the Americans say, ‘PERIOD’. No ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’.
… in the meantime, blessed be.
Rev Swee Ann Koh