The Wholeness of Life Includes Imperfection

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Being without flaw is one way to define perfection, yet a perfect whole must incorporate all its particulars, even the imperfect ones.

This is true not only of things, but for people. The wholeness of our life is perfect if it encompasses everything, including the problematic, undesirable, and lamentable aspects.

“Wholeness is the goal, but wholeness does not mean perfection,” writes Parker J. Palmer. “It means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life. The sooner we understand this, the better. It’s a truth that can set us free to live well, to love well and, in the end, to die well.”

Those of us with OCD, anxiety, or depression might think of our symptoms as a shameful or embarrassing brokenness. Yet, the symptoms are an integral part of our lives. When waxing intense, they often overwhelm our experience. As the symptoms wane, they use less mental and emotional energy.

The longer we live with this waxing and waning of symptoms - the more wholeness makes sense as goal. Not because we give up on recovery or the hope of a cure, but to avoid dividing our self into good and bad pieces—a brokenness that only a return to wholeness can remedy.

Embracing all our experience reduces the sting of self accusation, our anxiety over being anxious, and any shame about obsessions. In wholeness our shortcomings can rub elbows with our skills, strengths, and talents. Sometimes in that mix we find fresh perspectives, and new approaches to our problems.

We know when symptoms are strong they can block out everything except suffering. Our whole life may seem consumed by a black hole of despair. It is only in retrospect, when our feelings and thoughts lighten that we can shake a fist at our symptoms and simultaneously write them into our personal story.

When we can say, "I am all of the above," we become more at ease in our own skin, more at home on the face of this richly diverse earth, more accepting of others who are no more or less flawed than we are, and better able to live as life-givers to the end of our days. ~ Parker J. Palmer

Quote source: On Being
Photo credit: Hartwig HKD

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