There’s an interesting idea which permeates spiritual thought: perfection. The funny thing about perfection is that, though many seem to strive for it, the definition of perfection varies widely. Usually there’s something in there about peace and devotion and piety and love, sometimes it means obedience and sacrifice. Sometimes it’s something we lost long ago when man fell from divine grace or when we began to ruin the Earth with our destructive ways. Sometimes it’s something we can hope to gain after death, when the imperfect physical existence falls away.
In any case, there’s usually some kind of lesser perfection that we strive for in the present. We try to live up to expectations of our spiritual practice, avoiding all the right bad behaviors and unfailingly observing the proper routines. There are ways to talk and ways to dress and people we should and shouldn’t associate with. We strive for some ideal where every morning starts with a prayer or a sun salutation or a joyful leap from bed at a ridiculously early hour. There are battles to fight, protests to engage in, sides to take and truths to live without failing.
Of course, this isn’t just a spiritual thing, either. We try to keep our houses always clean and eat healthy and always arrive on time. Money should be saved and not wasted. Leggings are not pants. Never pick your nose.
And it’s exhausting. We’re bound to fail at it, because we’re human. And maybe that’s because we fell from grace and maybe that means we just haven’t elevated ourselves enough, but the most common conclusion is that we are fairly incapable of being perfect but we’re expected to do it anyway.
I once attended a management training program during which the instructor gave us the single best piece of advice I’ve ever received:
Don’t let perfect get in the way of good.
Don’t get so hung up on how you’re falling short of perfection that you fail to recognize what you’ve actually accomplished. If we let our spiritual lives (or our mundane lives, for that matter) get entirely focused on doing all the right things and not doing all the wrong things as if there is a cosmic grade card and we’ll fail out of existence if we get a B, then we’ve missed the point.