Perfection or Progression –
A difficult discipline to master is self-awareness. It is when you are aware of the good and the not so good, the skills you possess and the ones which need work. The biases, skewed vision, different experiences, which make you the uniquely flawed individual like the rest of humanity.
Some of the men I work with have begun to develop this discipline and it is hard for them to see themselves as they truly are, with no excuses. It is especially for those who thought of themselves as good partners and fathers only to discover they have a lot of work to do. If we’re not careful these revelations can do more harm than good because the road seems terribly long. They may even ask; “Why try?”
Along with self-awareness, another discipline I try to teach is the truth of progression, not perfection. Oftentimes when we see ourselves, perhaps for the first time, we also envision the amount of hard work inside of ourselves out outside. We have this perfect view of what we want to be and what we think our family, friends, and others want us to be. We throw all of our efforts into becoming this perfect version of ourselves, which doesn’t exist and isn’t attainable, and never come close. We fail miserably.
This is why the path to peace and acceptance is progression, not perfection. We are never going to be the idealized version of what we think we want and should be. We will only wear ourselves out and down. To pursue progression doesn’t mean there isn’t hard work to be done but we recognize the realization of our true selves is found on the journey and not at the end of it.
Perfection or progression, the difference makes all the difference.
Last night I sat in the classroom at a local county jail with a man who is close to being released. We talked about many things but mostly of our conversation was centered around the plan he has for getting his life in order, re-establishing his relationship with his children and how to live one day, one good choice at a time.
He was hopeful, a rare mindset for those incarcerated. He had his plan memorized and as he laid out the path he wants to follow I sensed in him genuine excitement at what his future holds. Part of mentoring men who are in jail is helping them not only formulate a post-incarceration strategy but also a second and a third option. After all, life has a way of not working out the way we anticipate. As we conversed the different possibilities his hope wasn’t dissipated and his determination, motivation was inspiring. I was careful not to dampen his enthusiasm too much while assisting him in making adjustments to his proposals. When our time was up he was not deterred. He believed in his plans, his ability to choose well and that he wouldn’t squander his regained freedom and sense of purpose.
Thinking on our conversation I believe it would be good for each of us to carve out spaces in our lives to remember our hope, purpose and reason for being. Life has a way of trapping us in the mundane minutiae of everyday living. Refocusing on our purpose, our hope, frees us from just passing one day to the next and allows us to truly live, not just exist.
We need rain. The ground is parched and a nice drenching would quench it’s thirst. Yesterday, there was an 80% chance the sky would open up and grace the land with water from heaven. I watched several times as the sky grew dark with grey clouds, blocking out the sun, threatening to unleash a torrent only to see the potential dissipate. Not a drop was to fall all day. An 80% chance equaled 0% actuality.
I was talking with someone this week whose having a difficult time with their teenager. This parent, clearly exasperated and their wit’s end, declared to me; “She just wont communicate with me! When we’re together not a word is spoken. I’m not sure she hears a word I say.” I asked the parent; “Do you know that 80% of our communication is body language? Only 20% is words. When she’s not talking she’s still saying a lot. You’ve just got to be able hear her. It takes a different kind of listening to understand what’s being said when no words are given.” The rest of our time together we discussed ways to hear and be heard with someone who isn’t able, ready or willing to talk.
Clouds and a parent. 80% seemed like a certainty when it came to rain. Speaking being only 20% of communicating seemed like never to a parent longing to bond with a child. Percentages, statistics, probabilities can bring false assurance and disappointment. This is why wisdom teaches that we are not to anticipate, generalize or give up when the odds are stacked against us. We enter and exist in every moment with the realization that every opportunity holds possibility and promise.
There are those days when you; “hit the nail on the head,” and others when you hit the finger instead.
Yesterday evening I finished building two doors for an outdoor lean-to we use for firewood and other misc objects. Critters have been messing around in it and I needed something to keep them out. The project wasn’t hard but my focus was off and in a relatively short amount of time I smashed my finger and hand with a hammer. I was becoming frustrated both by being off target and the pain which was shooting up my arm. Finally, doors in place, I went inside, washed and looked at my damaged digit and hand. Each one had already begun to turn purple and I rolled my eyes at my incompetence. This morning I looked again at the doors and at my bruises. The doors looked nice and will last, hopefully, longer than the damage to my hand. I also thought about all the nails that I hit on the head, drove into the wood without any problem at all.
The path we travel will have it shares of twists and turns, bumps and bruises, obstacles and heartaches. The temptation when we encounter these is to close our eyes to all the good, what’s going right, the blessings and focus solely on what’s not working, hurting us, the negative, impeding our way. The choice to look around and see the fuller picture can be the difference between keep going or giving up, hoping or despairing, living or just existing.