I’m doing two things badly at the moment: dieting and exercise.
For the last three weeks, I have committed myself again to that most miserable of disciplines: dieting which for the sake of my health, simply has to be done.
I never used to find exercising tedious but now that my various aches and pains rule out the two forms of exercise I enjoyed (cycling and running) I’m finding exercising very dull indeed.
So I’m doing these two things badly. But hey, I AM doing them!
It occurred to me how very deeply ingrained it is in me that “if you can’t do a thing well you shouldn’t do it at all”. So I have taught myself a 10 minute morning exercise routine but whenever I can’t do the full 10 minutes or just because I can’t remember what order all the exercises come in, I beat myself up and the story in my head goes “well what’s the point? If you can’t do it properly why bother?”
Why oh why, do I listen to this hectoring perfectionist inside my head?
I shouldn’t be telling myself off for getting things ‘wrong’, I should be celebrating the fact that I am trying and who cares if I don’t do it perfectly “every little helps” and no one watching anyway!
The same goes with dieting, I’m not doing it perfectly but at least I am doing it at least a little bit and every little step I take will help.
As human beings, we have a totally unrealistic expectation of ourselves when we believe that if only we have enough self-discipline, information and pumped up motivation then we ought to be able to do things perfectly.
A much more peaceful (and therefore much more likely to be successful) path to transformation of any kind (learning a new skill/language/musical instrument/dieting or exercising) is one where we accept our limitations and failures, where we do not allow ourselves to give up simply because we don’t do things ‘perfectly’ first time. Perfect is a word that should only be applied to straight lines or perfect circles. People, relationships and all endeavours are not perfect but they can be good and worthwhile. I love it that at the end of every day of the creation story, God said it was ‘good’. Even he didn’t say it was perfect! Good or on the way to being good is enough.
Martin Luther used the phrase “sin bravely” not as an encouragement to do things badly or to fail or to deliberately do the things we know we shouldn’t do but as a comfort to remind us that we will fail. “Being holy means getting up immediately every time you fall, with humility and joy. It doesn’t mean never falling into sin. It means being able to say “yes, Lord, I have fallen 1000 times. But thanks to you I have got up again thousand and one times.” (Helder Camara)
So whenever you fail, do things badly, screw up, remember there is a way forward and we only ever learn to do things well after we’ve done them badly many,many times – have you never heard a child learning to play the violin?