Be kind and show our true imperfect faces

A few months ago I went on a spiritual retreat and the first evening the leader read Psalm 46:10: “Stop and know that I am God.” This Old Testament verse is almost a mindfulness mantra now.

But then she went on to say, in some translations, this verse becomes, “Stop fighting and know that I am God. Wow!

Are you trying hard? Do you like ambition? Like wanting? Like trying to look good? I am a stubborn. I strive to be more, to do more, to have more, and even to be more spiritual. Since that retreat, I’ve thought a lot about striving, especially how we push each other – intentionally or not – to strive harder.

Yes, we pay lip service to embrace imperfection. We quote Brene Brown, who tells us that vulnerability is our superpower. But we even say that with a certain pride: “Look how vulnerable I am. We admire the Japanese art of kinsaguro – you’ve seen pictures of broken pottery with pure gold, shiny cracks. “See how beautiful imperfection is.”

But what if we celebrate broken pottery that has been mended with regular glue – the one that oozes and leaves messy ridges? It’s much closer to who we are as humans.

Social media is one of the sneakiest tools to encourage perfectionism and Facebook is the devil’s comparison tool. We torture ourselves with our Facebook photos: we show the pretty living room — but hide the mess of laundry and dirty dishes. Or a sumptuous meal – but not the sad faces of the children we shouted at while preparing it. And we share photos from our amazing vacation, but not from the fight we had when the bill came.

Could we do this differently? Could we be nicer by showing our real faces on Facebook? Maybe instead of “Sister Day” or “Dog Day”, we could have “Post Your Mess Day”.

How about a selfie on the couch at 2 a.m. worrying about money? How about the day after you post your glamorous 15th wedding anniversary photo of showing off a photo of the marriage counselor you owe that 15th anniversary to?

Think what a gift it would be for your friends to know that you too are in pain and anxious. Yes, you have this bumper sticker for one kid, but can you show us the other’s report card with all the C’s? (A favorite colleague of mine used to say, “Cs get degrees.” She was right.)

Think of the courage in these images: “Here we take Jimmy to college” and “Here we are taking Joanie for treatment.”

One of the spiritual teachers I most admire is Pema Chodron, an American Buddhist nun. Before becoming a nun, she was a divorced mother who struggled with fierce jealousy and anger.

I love hearing her talk about how – many years after being a renowned Buddhist teacher – she resented one of her colleagues so badly that it almost drove her crazy. When she tells me that I can learn to sit with hard feelings, I believe her. His Om, shanti and forgiveness did not come for years. She’s my kind of spirit guide.

We say – mostly after the fact – that we accept breakup as part of life, but dare we show it when it happens? We love the poster that says “No mud, no lotus”, but did you notice that the poster still features the pretty lotus flower but not the mud that grew it?

So give it a try. Post your mess. Show us the mud.



Diane Cameron is a writer from the Capital Region. [email protected]