On a sleepy Wednesday morning last week, my son sat at the counter eating a bowl of grits for breakfast before school, much like he does almost every morning. As he was finishing, he spun around on the stool with the bowl in his hand and lost his balance. The white glass bowl hit the wood floor and shattered into a million pieces. It snowed white glass and white grits on the floor, rug, walls, and stools. His eyes welled up with tears, and he stood there in shock whispering “I’m sorry mama. I didn’t mean to.”
Standing there in the shock of the mess, as a human, you are faced with a two choices. One, you allow yourself to get angry as his error. You fuss about the mess, angrily gather the pets and barefooted children out of the room, yell as you get the vacuum. You shout at his misjudgment and his mistake. You lash out at the moment that changed your vision of that morning.
Two, you allow yourself to acknowledge his mistake. You tell him it is ok, that you know he didn’t mean to do it. You carefully help him out of the glass and the mess, wipe him off, and send him upstairs to brush his teeth while you quietly work to fix what has happened.
How many times in life are we the mother at the counter witnessing the accident happening? And, even more than that, how many times are we the child, making a mistake and allowing the guilt and shame and fear to wash over us?
We are creating a world of perfectionism. We strive for it. We covet it. We want to the newest cars, the biggest house. When we invite people to our home, we want every detail perfect. We want every task we take on the be executed flawlessly. We want our clothes to look like a magazine. We want our skin to be perfect. We want our neighborhood to be idealistic. We want our meals to be impeccable. We want our bosses to be generous. We want our family to be forgiving. We want our employees to be selfless. We want our friends to be funny and accommodating and popular. We want our spouses to be superhuman. We want our kids to be the fastest, or the smartest, or the most popular. We want, we want, we want.
We do not allow room in our lives for mistakes. Mistakes are ugly. Mistakes show us that we are not perfect, that our life is not the storybook. Mistakes are the opposite of perfect. And when we encounter a mistake, whether it be from our child, our spouse, our self, our friends, our workplace, or our community, we attack. Mistakes kill perfection.
Here is the thing. When was the last time you looked in the mirror and saw perfection?
It took me about 38 years (some days I am still working on it) to realize that I am not a perfect human and never will be. My husband is not a perfect husband. My house is not a perfect house. My children are not perfect children. My family is not the perfect family. My work product is not the perfect work product. It is in those imperfections of myself, my life, my job, and my world that true beauty lives. It lives and breathes and calms and nourishes. It is the imperfect that truly feeds our soul.
As I stood there looking at my blue-eyed boy, I leaned down and whispered “It’s ok baby. We all make mistakes. No one is perfect, and I know you didn’t mean to do it. Let’s just work on correcting our mistake and move on with our day.” He didn’t need me to tell him how imperfect he was or how his actions ruined my floors or my morning. He needed patience. He needed understanding. He needed kindness. He needed compassion.
As you walk into your world today, be patient. Take the perfection glasses we insist on viewing life through off of your eyes. Realize that we are all trying our best. Some days will be amazing. Some days will be covered in broken glass and grits.
And that is ok.