The Practice of Being Imperfect

“Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.” Gal. 6:4-5 ™

Self-examination is one of the premier disciplines during the season of Lent and is one of the most misunderstood and under-used in the spiritual practices. Yet, historically, self-examination is a bedrock in the spiritual life and practice of the Church.

In culture of distraction we are losing the ability for prolong and deep thinking. Too often we do not pause long enough to ask, “Is this how I want to live?” “How is my life unfolding?” And in doing, so we lose our bearings as a people.

Did you know on Twitter a blue check mark by your name means you’re “somebody.” It seems Twitter likes to separate the somebodies from the nobodies. And getting and check mark means people think we are clever, valuable, smart, and worthy.

On social media we create a self we want people to see because somehow we will be convinced we are worthy enough to be loved. We instinctively know there is part of us which we let no one else see. For if they were to see us as we really are, we are certain and afraid they would not like what they see.

So we create an identity we want others to think we are, and it is achieved by an elaborate means of effort maintaining an illusion of control. It is preoccupied with appearance, and perfectionism is its closest ally. We prop up an external image…an image of a life we are not actually living.

Author Brennan Manning calls this the false self, “The Poser.” He writes, “The Poser is a handler, a spin doctor, a fixer, a clean up artist—he’ll do whatever it takes to maintain the appearance that we are not out of control, that our lives are not unmanageable, that we are not in need of a Rescuer.” Manning writes,

  • The Poser trembles at the thought of disappointing people.
  • Posers are frantic for approval. (We have an almost suffocating need to please, which makes it difficult to sys no ,even when no is the right answer.
  • Posers are habitually overcommitted to people, projects, and causes….
  • Posers are driven by a compulsive desire to appear perfect. We hope every one will admire us and no one will truly know us.
  • The Poser pursues relationships with those who will make them look good.

Facing brokenness is never easy. We can respond in a variety of ways but the biggest temptation almost always takes the form of self-protection. We will do anything to avoid, divert, deny, or hide our brokenness from our selves, from God and from others. Yet, what remains hidden cannot be healed.

How do we face our brokenness in a way that becomes life-giving? One way is through self- empathy.

Self-empathy is stopping and noticing (self-examination) our lives with curiosity and compassion, without judging.

Author Chuck DeGroat writes, “…self-compassion is far more crucial to our well-being than self esteem. Self-compassion is the practice of being an imperfect person, someone who is merely human in an age when we are all trying to be superhuman.”

How about for Lent one of your chosen disciplines the practice of being imperfect? You can start today.

So instead of pushing through, sucking it up, or soldiering on…give yourself permission to say “No.” Give yourself permission to not be perfect; to fail, to be human. Lean into the process of becoming, rather than one who has “arrived.” Live from a continuous posture of opening yourself and responding to a fresh work of grace, knowing this is your real life.

Author Brene Brown notes, “I now see how owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we will ever do.” Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection (Center City, MN: Hazelden, 2010), xiv.

© Gail Johnsen 2018




  1. I love the illustration! Where did you get it?


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