I was in a conversation recently with some teachers across the country who are engaged in learning some language teaching methods that are really effective. They were in a workshop that I taught last summer, and I was checking in on them to see how the work was going. I knew that they would be exhausted and discouraged. Change is tough, even when you know it’s necessary. One teacher after another betrayed this kind of thinking: I feel awful at the end of every day because I want what I do to be perfect.
Pretty typical of teacher-types. We were that kid in the class, most often. We have not overcome this damning perfectionism. It is exhausting to walk around that way. It’s a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that the perfectionist really does push him/herself to do very high quality work. The curse is fairly obvious: regardless of the quality of one’s work, the perfectionist thinks it a failure. What a miserable way to live!
And then, these words of Leonard Cohen:
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.*
As strenuously as I will go out today and attempt to do things perfectly (and I will), I’ve come to see that the cracks in my life, however painful at the time, are exactly the points at which light, good, depth, wisdom and grace have entered that same life of mine. More than these, the cracks in my life allow some tenderness that I can apply even to myself. When I do, people tell me that I seem patient! Imagine, a perfectionist, being patient! Bless the cracks. Just bless the cracks.
Can you? Today? Bless the cracks?
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Leonard Cohen, from the song “Anthem”