RE­CENTLY, I came to a wholly and thor­oughly un­sur­pris­ing con­clu­sion: I am not good enough.

Now, of course, I know that no one can ever be “good enough” in this life. What would be more ac­cu­rate, I sup­pose, would be to say that I could be much bet­ter. Ad­mit­tedly, I am not as bad as one could be, see­ing as I was raised in the love and ad­mo­ni­tion of the Lord in a home where rules and love were both dished out in their proper help­ings. But still, the in­escapable fact is that I could be bet­ter.

So, rec­og­niz­ing this fact, I de­cided that I should do bet­ter. Could do bet­ter. Would do bet­ter.

And so be­gan my mid-year res­o­lu­tion. I de­ter­mined that I would go one month be­ing as per­fect as hu­manly pos­si­ble. I wouldn't get mad. I would be help­ful. I would be en­cour­ag­ing. I would take ini­tia­tive at work. I wouldn't con­tra­dict un­nec­es­sar­ily. I'd clean up af­ter my­self re­li­giously. Et cetera.

It all started off so well. I did the dishes ev­ery night. I bit back ev­ery an­gry or un­help­ful word that sprang to my lips, no mat­ter who I thought was right. I was on time ev­ery day for ev­ery sched­uled event. I read God's Word more than usual. I could of­ten be seen clean­ing and tidy­ing.

This lasted for al­most a com­plete fort­night. Then, as hap­pens, the chal­lenge be­gan to grow old. I'd done well so far. It had been tough, but not ex­tremely so. All it re­quired was a bit of dis­ci­pline. I had this un­der con­trol. Of course, this train of thought oblit­er­ated my dis­ci­pline, and I be­came re­laxed and laid back in my fo­cus.

That's how I be­gan to de­vi­ate a lit­tle from my right­eous track. I spoke in anger once, then twice. A few pieces of cloth­ing or other

items be­gan to take up res­i­dence out­side of their al­lo­cated cup­boards and draw­ers. I showed up late at work one morn­ing. Then the next evening, I piled the dishes in the sink—and let them sit overnight.

By then, I re­al­ized I'd al­ready failed to keep my res­o­lu­tion. So what fol­lowed was a com­plete aban­don­ment. What dif­fer­ence would that make?

As you can tell, my “per­fect” month was far from per­fect.

But I no­ticed some­thing else when the month fin­ished and I looked back. Dur­ing the first two weeks, I'd no­ticed peo­ple be­ing cheer­ful, help­ful, ap­pre­cia­tive, and less nag­ging. In the third week, I felt a dis­tinct with­drawal of all th­ese im­prove­ments, and by the fi­nal week, it seemed to me that ev­ery­one else had al­lowed their pre­vi­ous good at­ti­tudes to be re­placed once again by im­pa­tience, un­help­ful­ness, and nag­ging.

If only peo­ple had stayed help­ful through­out, I sighed wist­fully, I might have been able to do it.

But of course, I soon re­al­ized that my slide back to my old bad habits hadn't been a re­ac­tion to how other peo­ple were act­ing. Rather, the way that I per­ceived peo­ple changed as I be­gan to slip. As my pa­tience with oth­ers dwin­dled, I was quicker to men­tally la­bel them as “im­pa­tient” or “judg­men­tal.” As love begets love and “iron sharp­ens iron,” my atti

1 tude and be­hav­ior not only af­fected oth­ers' be­hav­ior to­ward me, but also af­fected how easy I was to work with and to be around.

My per­fect month was a fail­ure, right? Well, yes and no. As far as it be­ing a per­fect month, yes, I messed up, no two ways about it. But in fail­ing I learned some im­por­tant lessons that will stick with me for a long time, and that caused me to grow and—dare I say it?—do bet­ter.

I don't have to be per­fect to do bet­ter. I don't even have to be bet­ter to do bet­ter. I just need to be ready with an ear open to God's still, small voice and a will­ing­ness to lis­ten and learn.

I can never be per­fect, but I can al­ways do bet­ter.

That's what my per­fect month taught me.

To de­mand per­fec­tion is a sure way to be dis­ap­pointed in ev­ery­body, for you will be bound to think ill of oth­ers. — Mon­ica Fairview Striv­ing for ex­cel­lence mo­ti­vates you. Striv­ing for per­fec­tion is de­mor­al­iz­ing. —Har­riet Braiker (1948–2004) Per­fec­tion con­sists not in do­ing ex­tra­or­di­nary things, but in do­ing or­di­nary things ex­traor­di­nar­ily well. —Marie Angélique Ar­nauld (1591–1661) Have no fear of per­fec­tion—you’ll never reach it. — Sal­vador Dali (1904–1989)

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