How to deal with Imperfection: the catholic way
We all have imperfections. Would you agree that it’s hard at times to accept these imperfections?
I personally think that the topic of imperfections is a sensitive or if not a daunting topic for many individuals. We all know that we’re imperfect ,in many ways, but we often don’t easily acknowledge that we possess such characteristics. It’s difficult for us because we find a reasoning for everything that we do. In other words, we make ourselves safe and puts the faults upon others.
I’m sure you’d recall the following phrase that we use: “ I know that I did that, but he/she did ….and that’s why”.
Do you agree that you have, on certain occasions, used the above tactic? I refer to this as a ‘tactic’ because we do use this as a means of escaping the hard truth.
I would like to point out that I haven’t reached perfection in relation to the above. On the contrary, I too struggle with it many times. The prime question that I want to discuss within this blog is ‘how are Catholic’s meant to view imperfections?’ How do we tackle this adamant fact?’
When we know Jesus, our call thus becomes to cleave unto Him and be like Him. All beings are made in the image and likeness of God and the image of God made flesh is Jesus. Hence, our lives should always emulate Christs’ . In other words, we can’t proclaim that we follow Christ and then live a totally different life. Our decisions, our actions and our thoughts should encompass Jesus entirely.
This is true for our imperfections too. Our imperfections, however small or big, need to be put against the example of Jesus Christ.
Our question ultimately should be, are my actions acceptable to my Lord? Would I do this if He were to stand next to me? Subsequently, we should ask ourselves ‘how can I improve?’. Even here our attempts to improve should include prayer and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The sacrament of confession.
As Catholics, we are fortunate for the great gift the church offers ,through her authority, in confession. I know that for many, the thought of having to lay down their sins in front of priest (who also struggles with sin) is a challenge. We really and truly must humble ourselves in front of the priest, knowing that when he forgives our sins in the ‘name of the Father, Son and Holy spirit’ it is Jesus in His mercy that forgives our sins.
In the gospel of John, Jesus tells His 12 apostles, in the great commission, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained”. Thus, we can be certain that when we pour out our hearts to the priest, Jesus will pour out His grace upon us. This grace of Christ can enable us to overcome our imperfections. Now, you may say “ …but I confess the same sins over and over again”. To this comment I say, “ so what?!”. We are all on the same boat here and there is no need to be afraid because a constant humbling before Christ will strengthen us to rid of the sin or imperfection completely. In other words, there will come a point when we can trample this imperfection.
Imperfection leads us to sainthood.
The call to sainthood isn’t reserved to those that enter religious life. It’s a universal call to the whole church. You don’t have to be perfect to be a saint but to be a saint you should desire to attain perfection. It isn’t about whether we completely achieve it or not. Rather, it relies upon our determination and effort to attain holiness.
Our imperfections should prune us to produce the ‘ripe’ fruit, our Lord refers to in the Gospels. The tree that produces fruit must be ‘pruned ‘ to produce great fruit! Therefore, you and I should allow our Jesus to ‘prune’ us.
Our relationship with Jesus should allow imperfections to surface. As children of Christ we are called to be one with Him. In a healthy relationship, imperfections should be like oil in water. The oil (‘our faults’) should naturally surface. The surfacing of the latter should be targeted in the relationship so that we get closer and closer to Jesus.
Hence, these imperfections are natural and shouldn’t be feared at all!
The example of St Jerome.
I visited Italy ,last summer, with my friends. It was our last day in Florence or ‘Firenze’. Now, to those who’ve been to Florence, you may know that this is the place to be if you are an art lover. I love seeing art, even though I’m perhaps the least artistic person you will find. My friends and I were walking through the ‘glorious’ Uffizi gallery.
We went from one room to another. Suddenly, my eyes fell upon a painting. It was a painting of ‘St Jerome’. It was a beautiful painting, but I couldn’t help but ponder how miserable he looked. The painting also portrayed him with a ‘rock’ held to his chest. I Knew that ‘St. Jerome’ was responsible for translating the bible into Latin (the vulgate). For a saint that did something so great, why on earth did the artist portray him this way? I was confused.
To my surprise , I found out that St. Jerome was an ‘imperfect’ man. Who would believe?!
St Jerome suffered from anger issues. So much so that he even had arguments with St Augustine! Nevertheless, the reason that this man is ‘St Jerome’ is because he truly was repentant.
He couldn’t help himself, but he begged Jesus for forgiveness, repeatedly. It even got to the point where, in his sadness, he would use a ‘rock’ to strike his chest during the ‘I confess …’ in mass.
I think we could all be saints if we try.
Faith as a journey.
Just like our lives are a journey, our faith too is a journey. In our faith lives we should mature. Hence, we should learn, understand and grow in strength and confidence.
We can’t always remain in ‘adolescence’. We must enter ‘adulthood’. Sometimes, our imperfections can be perceived as a hindrance to maturing. This is not the case because a surfacing of these imperfections is perhaps there for a reason.
An attempt to ‘tackle’ our imperfections can aid our growth in faith. Our trust in Jesus and our fidelity in faith will increase.
The best analogy for the latter, is a rigid stone that over time becomes a smooth pebble. We can become a beautiful, round pebble in the hands of our Lord.
What happens when others point out our faults?
I sometimes feel that it’s easy to analyse oneself in response to an action or situation. Its fine to identify our own faults. The problem arises when someone else points out our faults. Such a situation is, to many, irritable. Hearing from the mouths of others about our negatives leads us to justify our actions. We can’t accept it and we retaliate, often in disbelief.
Recently, I’ve been wondering just how humbling it would be to remain silent during such situations and simply accept the point they’ve stated. It may not always be true but be humble and accept what they’ve said. Then , reflect upon their statement to see if there are areas that you can improve. Having, a humility as such can enable us to avoid pride which is an unpleasant sin.
I have discussed much here but the underlying theme is ‘humility’. In our journey with Christ we must always be humble and know that we are imperfect. Our humility to accept and open our imperfections in front of Jesus is a very important character to uphold. If we decide to have this ‘mindset’ then Jesus can truly transform us to the saints we’re meant to be. Likewise, we can respond fully to His plan of sanctity.