I FEEL REALLY BAD. I missed National Imperfection Week, Sept. 23-26. It just went right by me, and I'll never be able to make it up. I've blown it. Or, if I'm lucky, (and I never am), Enid Howart and Jan Tras, counselors in private practice and the authors of "The Joy of Imperfection," (Fairview Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota) will forgive me.
In case you missed Imperfection week, too, here are a few of the suggestions the authors made for celebrating it:- Let nothing match. (Plaids and florals are good)
- Say "I don't know" in response to a question.
- Ask for help at least once a day.
- Take a wrong turn.
- Get lost. Then stop and ask for directions.
- Tell a bad joke badly.
- Start a local chapter of Imperfects Anonymous.
- Laugh at yourself. Laugh with yourself. Let others laugh too.
This is not a perfect list, but hey, who cares?
I was delighted with this book, because it captures the national obsession with perfection. Each chapter is geared to treat a different myth and a corresponding truth.
Chapter Two, for instance, is titled "I Can and Should be Perfect?" The myth is: "Perfection is attainable; therefore, I can and should be perfect. If I just do more, try more, learn more, work more, earn more, buy more, exercise more, than I will be perfect."
The truth is: "No, you won't be perfect. You'll be tired, broke, stressed, sweaty, and feeling like a failure. Seeking the perfect face and body, the perfect partner, the perfect income, and the perfect life costs a lot of time, energy and money. The cheap truth is that perfection is rare, fleeting, and usually accidental."
Coincidentally, Rabbi Harold Kushner, one of my favorite authors, who wrote "When Bad Things Happen to Good People," is battling perfection, too. His new book is titled, "How Good Do We Have To Be?," just published by Little, Brown in Boston.
Kushner asks why so many people think they have to be perfect - from parents trying to make up for the empty spaces in their own lives? From teachers who focused on every mistake we ever made? From religious leaders who thought Adam and Eve broke one rule and were punished forever?
Kushner doesn't believe "in a God who looks for reasons to punish people for being less than perfect. I think it is bad religion to teach that, just as it is a mistake for parents to be excessively disappointed every time their child makes a mistake."
"Life," he says, "is not a spelling bee where one mistake wipes out all the things we have done right." (I was especially glad to hear that, because in July I was the first one out in the spelling bee between columnists and English professors.)
When Sue Bender, best-selling author of "Plain and Simple" was in Salt Lake City recently to keynote the YWCA Leader Luncheon, she said "To be whole doesn't mean you have to be perfect." According to the original Greek, the word `perfect' in the New Testament should have been translated `whole,' meaning that is the way Jesus saw it, too.
Finally, Lowell Bennion said, "I had a fine freshman student who spent half of his time keeping track of himself. He had three big looseleaf notebooks, and he jotted down every thought he had and every feeling and every word. He reduced his life to his own parameters."
According to Bennion, people who try to be perfect are usually too conscious of themselves and not conscious enough of others. They would be better off to give themselves to a cause greater than themselves.