If you read this blog regularly, you know that I talk a lot about how we are all imperfect beings, so we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves. It isn’t possible for us to be perfect because we are mortal beings in a fallen spiritual state.
Do we need to try to learn, grow, and become better? Absolutely.
Do we need to beat ourselves up for not doing everything exactly perfect and right all of the time? Of course not.
God knows about our imperfections. And, even better, He’s planned for them. That’s why Jesus Christ came to the earth, suffered for our sins, died, and was resurrected – so we could have the chance to repent.
I believe all of this. I believe that we aren’t perfect and that God has planned for it. But I’ve recently realized that recognizing our imperfections can turn into a problem – if we take it too far.
I know. How can it be bad to recognize your imperfections? Well, stick with me for a minute, and I’ll explain.
Why We Need to Recognize Our Imperfections
Okay, let’s start with this truth: we need to recognize our imperfections. If we couldn’t see our weaknesses, sins, and mistakes, then we could never see where we need to work to improve ourselves.
Recognizing personal error is how we grow. We may be mortal fallen beings, but we are also children of God. And our goal is to become like Him. We are purposefully made to be fluid or malleable so that we can adjust to be more like God. But this also allows us to choose not to follow God, which is why the fluidity of our nature is so important.
But to make that fluidity a tool for our benefit rather than a weakness that can destroy us, we need to recognize the imperfections we have so they can change.
Okay, that’s a pretty abstract way of explaining it. Let’s make it more tangible.
Imagine if clay hardened within 60 seconds of meeting air. You wouldn’t be able to do anything to it. For clay to be a tool that we can use to build or create art, it needs to be soft and moveable. You can then adjust the clay so it can become the vase you need it to be.
However, because clay is soft when we work with it, there’s always the possibility that it won’t be shaped properly so the vase can stand. If we can’t see the structural issue in the vase, it will easily break or it won’t serve the purpose we need it to serve.
So being able to see the problems of the vase is necessary to change the clay, and the fluidity of the clay is necessary to make those changes.
We’re the same as the clay/vase. Our ability to change means we will have imperfections, but it also means we can leave those imperfections behind. And the ability to see those imperfections allows us to work with God to mold ourselves into someone stronger.
Does that make more sense? Well, I’m going to act like it did and move on with my point.
Recognizing our imperfections lets God work in our lives to make us better because we can then see what we need to work on. But sometimes when we recognize that we are imperfect, we might not try to fix our imperfections.
Turning Imperfection Into an Excuse
This is when recognizing imperfection is taken too far. Sometimes, when we know we are imperfect, we can be too willing to let our mistakes and sins slide by without fixing them. And that’s exactly what God doesn’t want us to do.
Here’s the dangerous mentality that turns imperfection into an excuse: “I’m not perfect. I never can be perfect. I’m going to mess up. It’s inevitable. Why should I feel bad about it or try to change if it’s going to happen anyway? Why try?”
With that line of thinking, the whole purpose of repentance becomes obsolete. If you can’t change, if you think you’re like clay that hardens too fast to mold, why even try in the first place? Even if you repent, you’ll make other mistakes, and it will all be for nothing.
This is dangerous thinking.
This line of thought robs the Atonement of its power – or rather, your perception will be that the Atonement is limited and its power will be hindered in your life as a result. Until you can see that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is entirely, eternally infinite, you cannot use its full power.
Satan’s goal is to convince us that we can’t return to God. If he convinces us of that, then he has power over us to convince us of other falsehoods as well.
Honestly, this line of thought – that it isn’t worth trying to change because we’re imperfect anyway – sounds a lot like this to me:
8 And there shall also be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless, fear God—he will justify in committing a little sin; yea, lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this; and do all these things, for tomorrow we die; and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.2 Nephi 28:8
In other words, go ahead and sin because you’re imperfect anyway and can’t change, so God will be okay with you sinning a bit.
No. God isn’t okay with us sinning. That’s why He gave us a way to leave sin behind – repentance through Christ’s Atonement.
I want to be clear here – there is a very real difference between trying to be better and making mistakes in the process, and choosing to sin because you don’t think you can or should try to become better. One is making an honest effort to become more like God and falling short as a result of our fallen state, while the other is accepting our fallen state as the only possible state.
You could also say that one is a path of hope while the other is a path of misery.
So let’s sum up: yes, you need to recognize your imperfections so you can work on becoming better and more like God. But recognizing that you’re an imperfect fallen being does not excuse you from living God’s commandments and gospel once you’ve been taught it.
It’s a big responsibility to know the gospel. We are expected to change our lives, our hearts, and our actions the more we follow Christ. And no, it isn’t easy.
But it’s a path of progress, and progress toward God is worth every moment of difficulty. So, let’s try to remember this admonition from Alma this week:
30 O my son, I desire that ye should deny the justice of God no more. Do not endeavor to excuse yourself in the least point because of your sins, by denying the justice of God; but do you let the justice of God, and his mercy, and his long-suffering have full sway in your heart; and let it bring you down to the dust in humility.Alma 42:30