There are so many things I love about our Church culture—our outgoingness, our willingness to serve, our focus on the Savior and others, and the fact that no matter where I go, I instantly have a community I'm a part of.
But then there are those things that sometimes make being a Mormon hard—our obsession with perfection, our tendency to paint everything in the best light, our tendency to stretch ourselves thin and work until we run ourselves into the ground, and the mentalities we spread that engineer guilt, not grace.
Don't get me wrong, our Church leaders continually tell us to simplify and our doctrine speaks of grace and mercy, but many of us seem to think those principles are for everyone else—not for us. We hold ourselves to such high standards that no human can possibly achieve, and when we miss them, the negativity sets in.
Worst still we allow this deprecating pattern of thought spread to others by holding them to impossible standards—our spouse, our children, our parents, our friends, our ward members.
In all of this expectation-setting and struggle, we often overlook an essential part of our eternal progression—humility. Are we allowing our imperfections, our weaknesses, our sins, and our failures to overwhelm us or are we allowing them to teach us?
It was always a part of our Heavenly Father's plan that, at numerous times in our lives, we would fail. That's not to say God wants or predestines our failure, but He knows us so perfectly He understands at times we'll waiver, we'll get sick, we'll struggle, or maybe we just won't have the capacity to fulfill what is expected of us. And that's a beautiful thing, because that is what makes the Atonement so indispensable.
Sheri Dew sums this idea up beautifully in her powerful new book, Worth the Wrestle, when she says, "We can either live our lives alone, relying largely upon our own strengths, or we can live them with the help of heaven. How much help we receive from above is largely up to us. None of us are talented enough, smart enough, wise enough, or resilient enough to do the work of building the kingdom—and to become the men and women we have the potential of becoming—without the help of heaven."
Instead of obsessing over our imperfections or failures, I think we'd do better to begin thanking our Heavenly Father for them and for the chance He's given us to try and try and keep trying to overcome them. Instead of building up a facade of perfection, I think we would all benefit from openly recognizing that such a reality is impossible—and what a wonderful thing that truly is.
The humility that comes from recognizing our own frailty can help us recognize God's grace, it can help us reach out with empathy, and it can draw us closer to God. In many ways, weaknesses and imperfections are our strength in that they compel us closer to the only source of true strength in this world—our Heavenly Father and Savior—and they help us access a source of power beyond anything earthly—the Atonement. I think this is what our Heavenly Father meant in Ether 12:27 when He said, "And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them."
So cherish your imperfections and allow them to draw you closer to the Lord and others. Express your gratitude daily for your limitations, then ask for God's help in learning from them and eventually rising above them. Learn to love yourself now while still looking forward to the person you can become. As President Thomas S. Monson instructed us in the October 2012 general conference, "We must develop the capacity to see men not as they are at present but as they may become." Let's also work on extending ourselves the same courtesy so we can replace guilt with grace and our personal frustrations with the power of the Atonement.