Perfectionism is a common ailment in the world today. It goes hand-in-hand with anxiety and depression. We all strive to craft a perfect life (or the perception of a perfect life) until we can’t anymore. There comes a point where we stop trying to look perfect and accept our flaws . . . until the next wave of perfectionism washes over us.
Now, this isn’t to say that we shouldn’t do our best or strive to be perfect. What I am trying to say is that there was only ever one perfect person on this earth (Christ) and it isn’t you. Feeling like you need to be perfect is crippling, and we all have enough problems in our lives, we don’t need more.
So here is my list of some imperfect and amazing people!
I think a lot of Latter-day Saints put Nephi on a pedestal. He was so great, he started the Book of Mormon, he got the plates. But he also failed. Nephi and his brothers went to get the plates from Laban and they failed. Twice. But Nephi learned from those failures and eventually obtained the plates (after killing Laban, but whatever).
Nephi also tried countless times to get Laman and Lemuel to have faith and to follow God. Nephi’s brothers still tied him up, beat him, and eventually, this feud led to generations of tension between their descendants.
In 2 Nephi 4, Nephi expresses sorrow for all of his sins.
16 Behold, my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard.
17 Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.
18 I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.
Nephi sinned. He said it in scripture. This passage has always been a favorite of mine because, if Nephi sinned, I guess it is okay if I do too.
I’m talking about the disciple of Jesus Peter. When Peter saw Christ walking on water, he wanted to as well. So Peter got out of the boat and he freakin walked on water. He actually did it. Then he got distracted and afraid—and began to sink. Instead of admonishing Peter for failing, Christ helped him right up.
Peter went on to lead the ancient Church. He continued to receive revelation and guidance from the Spirit. Peter did all that Christ asked of him. One failure did not keep Peter from doing what Christ asked of him.
Joseph Smith’s life has been researched and explored by many inside the Church and outside it. Anyone who tells you that Joseph never failed at anything is lying to you. One shining example is the lost 116 pages of the Book of Mormon.
Martin Harris asked to bring the pages to his family. Joseph asked the Lord if that was permissible. The Lord said no. More than once. Finally, the Lord told Joseph to go ahead and let Martin take the pages. Those pages promptly fell into the wrong hands and Joseph and Martin were punished by the Lord.
They failed. They ignored the Lord’s counsel and gave in to outside pressure. But they learned so much. Joseph learned to trust the Lord in everything. In turn, the Lord took this opportunity to give this counsel to Joseph in Doctrine and Covenants 10:4, “Do not run faster or labor more than you have strength and means provided to enable you to translate; but be diligent unto the end.”
If you look through the rest of the Doctrine and Covenants, you will see other instances where the Lord took someone’s failures and used them to teach.
President Thomas S. Monson
President Monson is often remembered for his kindness and his stories. One of his stories comes to mind as I think about failure. You can read the whole story here, but the gist is this: Bishop Monson was about to leave for a stake high council meeting when he received a phone call telling him a member of his ward was in the hospital. The caller wanted to know if the bishop could come to see the person, but Bishop Monson said he was on a way to a meeting and would stop by after.
All through his meeting, Bishop Monson kept feeling the prompting to leave. Finally, he ran to the hospital only to find that the person had just passed away.
President Monson probably felt like a failure for not listening to the prompting. However, after that experience, he vowed to always follow a prompting. No doubt this experience helped form one of President Monson’s more famous quotes: “Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.” From that moment until his death, President Monson was on the Lord’s errand.
Failure is essential for success
Due to our nature as humans, we are going to fail. We are also designed to succeed in the ways that matter most—returning to our Heavenly Father. We are all born with the light of Christ in us. Our Father has given us the tools to return to Him if that is what we want.
He has also given us the gift of His Son. Christ performed the Atonement so that we don’t have to bear the weight of our sins, transgressions, and weaknesses forever. By trying to be perfect, we are telling the Savior that we don’t need His gift, we can do it without Him.
But here is the thing: we can’t.
We can’t be perfect. We can try though—and that is all that is asked of us. So we can take our imperfections, our mistakes, and failures, and learn to be better from them.
How do you resist your perfectionist tendencies and embrace your failures? Let us know in the comments.