I have this friend who is always reminding me that I’m human. I know this to be true, and I’m grateful that it is.
But I don’t always love it when she says that. Sometimes, what I hear her say when she says that is: watch your perfectionism, it’s getting out of hand. But other times, I hear her say: it’s ok to slack off. It actually makes me feel better when you don’t go quite so hard.
So sometimes, I listen to her and appreciate her for the intervention. And other times, I leave that comment – you’re human – right where it comes from.
At the root of this disconnect is the truth that she and I have fundamentally different ideas of what being human is and what being human means.
Real talk: one can never 100% know what someone else thinks or feels. But as I perceive it, she thinks it to be human means to be irrevocably flawed, imperfect and, sure, to try to get better all the time, but also flawed and imperfect.
I think that to be human is to be a child of God, is to be an heir in the lineage of perfection. Does this mean that I expect or want to be perfect? Definitely not. But it does mean that I hold myself to a spirit of excellence at all times, that I push myself at times others would give me a big old hall pass to take a breather, and that I have bold expectations that grace and supernatural forces will take my intentions and my actions to a level closer to perfection than I ever could have taken them under my own steam.
I learned that my work is to every day, be more and more unapologetic and bold about claiming my inheritance as a child of God. My inheritance is everything. Yours is, too. We just forget sometimes. And my work is also to every day, more and more, approach my own flaws and humanity with ease, compassion and humor, while still working constantly to elevate who I am and how I am to a standard befitting of a child of God.
Maybe our difference of opinion is simply a matter of the conclusions we reach from the same st of facts. We both agree that to be human is to be flawed. But she feels that our flaws let us off the hook, and make it silly to set super strict standards for ourselves. I see it differently: our flaws simply create the landscape for us to experience growth and healing and to act out our craving for the divine, trying to edge ever closer to the supernatural from right here, on this ball of dirt we call ours.
Last night, I went down an Internet poetry rabbit hole. Of all Internet rabbit holes, I recommend this one, perhaps, the most. I came across this beautiful short poem called Romanesque arches, which touched on precisely this issue of being human, and being proud of it.
by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robert Bly
Tourists have crowded into the half-dark of the enormous Romanesque church.
Vault opening behind vault and no perspective.
A few candle flames flickered.
An angel whose face I couldn’t see embraced me
and his whisper went all through my body:
Don’t be ashamed to be a human being—be proud!
Inside you one vault after another opens endlessly.
You’ll never be complete, and that’s as it should be.
Tears blinded me
as we were herded out into the fiercely sunlit piazza,
together with Mr and Mrs Jones, Herr Tanaka and Signora Sabatini—
within each of them vault after vault opened endlessly.
P.S.: I issued a 30 Day Writing Challenge for Conscious Leaders a few weeks back, and over 150 brilliant souls signed up! I decided to take the Challenge right along with them, and it’s been a profound journey for many of us. Most people are journaling or free-writing every day, privately. I wrote this post on Day 26 of the Challenge. I’ll be doing another writing Challenge in January; click here to get on the list for the January Challenge.