Imperfection, by Eve Lockett
|Nebuchadnezzar by William Blake|
I’ve been thinking about imperfection, and whether we should see it as a problem or part of the way we’ve been designed. It’s so easy to focus on where we fall short, as if that’s a true measure of our lives.
So what do we mean by imperfection? To be perfect is to be without flaw or fault; but there’s also another sense to perfection – the sense of something finished or complete. As a Christian, my understanding is that God is leading us by his power and grace to our ultimate transformation into the perfect likeness of Christ. But that is our destiny. In the meantime, we live with imperfection because we are not yet what we will be; we are changing, developing, growing.
As writers, we’re told that the characters we create should go through some transforming experience, to become what they could not have been without it. Characters that don’t change or develop are superficial, ‘cardboard’, caricatures. Even the old and wise need to grow, otherwise they are just dispensers of wisdom without demonstrating how wisdom is gained.
Of course, one can deliberately create a character who refuses to grow, and whose entrenched manner and attitudes distinguish them as an individual. In his novel Bleak House, Charles Dickens introduces us to Sir Leicester Dedlock – reactionary, stuck in his ways, intolerant and self-deluded, as his name implies. He begins as a comic character, but by the end of the book he is a figure of pathos, deeply shaken by the onslaught of realities he has sought to avoid and yet meeting his ordeal with dignity, with compassion and gentle grace.
In the book of Daniel in the Bible, we read about Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon. He is ruthless, arrogant and boastful. Surprisingly, for the most powerful man in the world at that time, he learns his lesson. The story of his transformation takes him from tyrant to mindless beast to humble worshipper. It is an illustration of God’s power to transform the human heart, even with the most unpromising material.
So are we as writers content with the process of development and change in ourselves, or are we discouraged by our own imperfections?
I was planning this blog post when one of the grandchildren came over to do her homework, and brought with her a teen magazine called TEEN Breathe. She opened it at an article entitled The Perfectionist Trap. I snatched it from her and said, ‘You can have this back in two days!’
The author explains that perfectionism can make us so anxiously focused on our goal that we never enjoy the process. Equally, it can stop us from acting at all, because we are so intimidated by fear of failure. Of course we want to do our best, but not to be robbed of the joy of doing what we love.
Here’s a suggestion from the article – buy yourself some colourful felt tips and keep them in a jar, points upwards. Then place your favourite colour pen upside down, as a reminder to you things don’t have to be perfect in order to work, to be vibrant and wonderful.
Being liberated from the perfect allows us to journey towards it. Imperfection is an adequate vessel in which to set sail for the farther shore. If we rejoice in it, we can take pleasure in the voyage, and joy is a good companion to have on board.