I used to have a really hard time accepting other people’s faults. One of two things would happen: I would be upset and personally hurt by their failings if they somehow affected me. Or I would judge the person because “they weren’t perfect” and would think all sorts of negative thoughts, “Seriously?! What’s wrong with you? Don’t you have a clue?!”
Now, lest you judge me for thinking this stuff, let me tell you what my thoughts were rooted in. My thoughts were rooted in the need to be perfect and also in fear. I had the most ludicrous expectations for myself — expectations I could never live up to — which then lead me to be continually disappointed in myself and others. I could not accept faults in others because I could not accept faults in myself because I thought I always had to “do the right thing”.
“Do the right thing”. Whatever that means.
The fear part is wonderfully complex. There was the fear that, because we always have to “do the right thing“, someone hurting me (and in essence doing the wrong thing) was the worst thing possible. I would almost be paralyzed — so disappointed, so angry, so completely unable to offer grace and forgiveness. I was afraid to be hurt because I just could not cope with it in any way.
But I was also deeply afraid that people would see my own faults, that I did not always “do the right thing”, that I was not perfect. I didn’t want to be fully known, because to be fully know me would be to see all of the ugliness I tried so hard to hide or deny. And because I didn’t know how to cope with the faults in others or myself, I was sure that my own ugliness would be met with the same judgmental, unforgiveness which I gave to others.
It was only when I stopped and was finally willing to look at my faults and accept that I did not always need to be perfect, and when my faults were met with grace by others, that I finally got it. I didn’t have to fear being known anymore. I didn’t have to fear being hurt by others. And I had a much stronger experience and sense of what love really is.
So, I’m growing out of all of those bad thoughts — the fear, the judgmentalism, the unforgiveness, the need to be perfect. And I know the next step is to not judge the “judgers” — the people who are just like how I used to be. I need to have grace with them too. And not because “someday they’ll realize they’re wrong”. That’s not the point. Because if it is, it implies that whole “doing the right thing” again. I’m getting to the point now where I try not to judge others simply because I am no longer afraid of weakness.
Our lives are a mystery of growth from weakness to weakness, from the weakness of the little baby to the weakness of the aged. Throughout our lives, we are prone to fatigue, sickness, and accidents. Weakness is at the heart of each one of us. Weakness becomes a place of chaos and confusion if in our weakness we are not wanted; it becomes a place of peace and joy if we are accepted, listened to, appreciated, and loved. (Jean Vanier, Becoming Human)