The best way to strive for perfection

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Catholic News Service

We all want things to be perfect.

People talk about giving their friends a perfect birthday present or going on the perfect date. They go for a perfect 10 in athletic competition and want everything to be perfect for prom night.

People dream of perfect scores on the SATs and landing the perfect girlfriend. People work hard and study hard, all in the name of perfection.

We’d like people to be perfect, too.

Perfect parents would never ground you for sneaking out or being late.

Commentary by Karen Dietlein Osborne

Perfect friends or siblings wouldn’t ever breathe a word of your deepest, darkest secrets — ever.

A perfect boyfriend would take you on incredible, romantic dates, and a perfect girlfriend would be insanely beautiful.

Perfect teachers would be entertaining and fun, and every assignment would be engrossing.

Striving for perfection — and demanding it of friends and relatives — seems, on first glance, to be a good thing. After all, doesn’t everyone want the world to be better, for things to be brighter, for everyone to get along?

The problem is this: That kind of perfection is impossible. We all have character flaws. No human being ever lives up to our “perfect vision.”

People aren’t perfect.

People can be selfish and egotistical.

People can disappoint you, leave you behind, call you names and make you sad.

People behave badly, embarrass you and ruin your weekend. And the more you love them, the tougher all of that is to stomach.

It’s one thing to hear people that you don’t know whispering behind your back; it’s another to hear your best friend say the same nasty words. It can be really hard to take, and harder to forgive.

But we must.

We have to remember that every single human being ever born on this earth has character flaws. Maybe you know someone who has shoplifted. You definitely know people who have lied. You know people who have cheated. Every single human being has passed on gossip.

Even the saints had these issues.

Before St. Augustine became one of the most influential Christian writers, he disobeyed his mother, slept around and made trouble.

When our friends fail us, we can sometimes get so caught up in how awful we feel that we forget we’re just like them — that that we are not perfect either, and that we’ve all disappointed someone else.

Maybe you gossiped a little last week. Maybe you forgot to meet a friend at the mall or felt completely embarrassed when your mother told stories from your childhood to your new crush. Maybe you were angry when your teacher was short or irritable with you.

We cannot expect other people to be perfect, especially if we aren’t perfect ourselves.

All we can do when somebody in our life stumbles is to love and forgive them, and help them when we can.

In this imperfect world, with people who disappoint us and events that don’t live up to the glittering, perfect visions in our heads, the only real way to strive for a perfection that lasts is to forgive others — and to forgive ourselves.

When you forgive someone for his or her very human imperfections, you bring yourself — and the world — closer to a perfection about which we can only dream.

Forgiveness heals the chasms between us, brings people closer and helps us work on forgiving ourselves for the terrible things we do.

Forgiveness paves the way for both you and the person that wronged you to make something beautiful and new out of your relationship.

So forgive. Reach out. Love and help your friends.

This is the “perfect” solution.

Osborne writes for Catholic News Service.