Personal development — can it hppen through fallibility?
Who am I? Where am I headed in life? What is my purpose? How do I change? These are familiar questions we ask ourselves in our quest for personal development and meaning. They can also be some of the most difficult questions to answer. Many clients I work with have sought out therapy because they are desperately seeking answers to these questions. They are all bright individuals; however, like you and I their efforts to develop a firm sense of direction in life are ongoing. We simply don’t know everything, and certain matters may remain temporarily unclear, for example, what to do next in our career, or how to work through persistent difficulties with our spouse. Yet, in a culture that seemingly thrives on progress and information, is it possible to not know everything, to make mistakes, to be imperfect and yet live a fulfilling life? Absolutely, and acknowledging you aren’t perfect and don’t have all the answers can have profound implications for shaping how you live.
There Has to Be More
I realize you may think this is all too simplistic, but I would ask you to consider things from a cultural standpoint. Dr. Richard A. Davis, Industrial/Organizational Psychologist, and partner at RHR International, describes how in our American culture we are socialized to save face and to appear flawless by having the perfect kids, the perfect car, the perfect job, and the perfect leadership. The idea pounded into us is that we must continually strive to be the best; making mistakes is simply not acceptable (Davis, 2010). Davis questions this notion by showing great success is not necessarily achieved because you are always the best, but rather because of fallibility. Not being number one all the time forces you to get better at what you do (Davis, 2010). So what does this mean for those of us who feel like we have to be always be the best or know everything right now?
It means not having perfect answers to all the questions mentioned earlier can actually be beneficial. We are essentially challenged to think, explore, search, grow, and take risks. For Christians, it also means we have an opportunity to abide by Proverbs 3:5:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight (NIV).”
This scripture affirms God has given us the ability to make decisions, shows he is clearly aware of our imperfections, and reminds us he will help us correct our course when we get off the proper path.
I can see how some individuals might misconstrue this information to mean we should therefore aim to be lazy, to always make mistakes, and to simply be content with not understanding who we are or the direction we are headed in life. On the contrary, the emphasis of this article is on the importance of understanding your fallibility, and utilizing it to develop who you are. My prayer is that you will trust God with all your heart as you seek to grow in life, and that you will always remember imperfection is a good thing.
Davis, Richard A. (2010). Intangibles of leadership: The 10 qualities of superior executive performance. Mississauga, ON: John Wiley & Sons Canada, Ltd.
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