Progress = Perfection

Okay, I admit it… I deliberately laid a trap to see if I would catch him in dishonesty — let’s not even call it a lie. I was speaking with a dear friend in a life and death struggle with alcoholism. My trap? A simple question: “Are you drinking?”

Honesty carries fresh urgency these days. Denial, deception, white-lies and half-truths abound. We all do it! Maybe that’s why Bill Clinton got off so easy in the Monica Lewinsky scandal. We identified with his squirming machinations. Remember his emphatic assertion: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman!”? We’ve all spouted such half-truths.

We only wish we were as verbally dexterous as the ex-President. What he said was technically correct, but was it honest? If by “sexual relations” we mean sexual intercourse, Mr Clinton is telling the truth. That’s what he wanted us to believe. If “sexual relations” means a range of intimate sexual activity the President’s nose surpassed Pinocchio. And, we all saw his nose grow exponentially!

We all saw it because we all do it. Perfect honesty seems impractical if not impossible. We practice denial and indulge deception telling half-truths. We further deceive ourselves if we let ourselves off the hook just because perfection is beyond our reach or ability. What’s needed is not perfection but progress!

The other thing that’s needed is to set for ourselves a very high bar of personal accountability. My 45 y/o nephew just completed the Boston Marathon. He was uncompromising in pursuit of his bucket-list goal! Extenuating circumstances like rain, wind and temps in the 40s conspired such that he missed his desired time by 8 minutes.

Perfection was out of reach. Post-run photos suggest it wasn’t even pretty! Yet, Dean finished his marathon in 3 hours and 38 minutes and deserves all the accolades that are rightfully his. There was no Clintonian duplicity in his performance, no mincing of words, just raw foot-to-the-pavement pursuit of an illusive goal.

Dean may have completed the Boston Marathon, but Dean is far from finished. As if taking a page from Step 12 of Alcoholics Anonymous, I am confident the point of Dean’s exploit is to take the principles learned in “finishing Boston” and to apply them in all his endeavors. Such persistent progress, not perfection, is a worthy goal for all of us!

The snare I laid for my friend was not meant to be deceptive or a cynical trap. Rather, it was a well-intentioned question about his progress.  Just as finishing the Boston Marathon is a momentous indicator of one’s enduring practices and principles. So too is plain and simple honesty within each of our lives, especially when it isn’t easy or even pretty!

For as every alcoholic knows, it’s ultimately not about the alcohol. It’s about the much fuller, all in-composing “spiritual awakening” that restores us to living once again. Let’s be honest, it’s about taking the wisdom we learn from running our own hellish marathon and applying the lessons consistently across the board.

That sets a pretty high bar. Today I am grateful to both my nephew and my dear friend for showing me that goals can be achieved. In life, persistent hard-earned progress equals perfection!

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