Jeremy Statton

Living Better Stories

Permission to not Live a Perfect Story

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My story is a complete mess.

I never intended to have seven kids, but things happened. We opened our eyes and we couldn’t say no. We said yes even though we didn’t know how to do it. We said yes even though we weren’t ready enough.

And things are so out of control, my imperfections stand out so badly, that I feel like a complete failure.

One child is noisy. Seven are a neighborhood disturbance.

One child is messy. Seven are a hurricane that is constantly advancing with destructive force.

One child grows hungry. Seven eat all of the time. Literally all of the time. 24-7.

One child demands your attention. Seven leave you nothing of yourself at the end of the day.

When I tell people that we have seven kids, they often respond by telling me I have my hands full. I guess they don’t see that most of what I have been given to hold now lies by my feet, the excess having spilled over the edges.

A Cracked-Up Story

Like a hand-made, well-worn vase, every story has cracks in it.

  • The parts where things didn’t go the way the person had hoped.
  • The parts where things didn’t come together just right.
  • The parts where good was intended but it turned into hurt.
  • The parts we wish we could do over.
photo by

photo by Nic McPhee

We all have imperfections. No person is flawless. Sometimes those cracks are on the surface, and everyone can see them. They stand out like a scar.

Sometimes the cracks are hidden deep down in the parts of us that nobody can see like the structurally deficient corroded bearings of an old bridge.

Layers

We have a tendency to want to live the perfect story. We want our lives to be without any of the cracks and imperfections.

Some of us try to hide our flaws. We polish our lives on the outside. We paint and we mend and we paint more. We cover ourselves up and we distract others from these flaws. We put so much effort into trying to prevent people from seeing our imperfections, they haven’t seen the real us in a very long time.

We create a layered person that nobody, not even ourselves, knows very well at all.

Sometimes we wait. We wait until we have life figured out. We wait for a better day. We wait until everything is put in its place. We wait until we have enough time or money. We wait until we feel we know how.

Either way, what we tend to overlook is that the imperfections, the mistakes, the flaws, the cracks, are all an important part of a better story.

The point of your story isn’t to do everything perfectly. It is to do good in the world in spite of the imperfections.

Dreaming of the Perfect Life

I dream about perfect days. When every corner in the house doesn’t have something out of place. When nobody is yelling. When nobody is hitting. When peace and quiet fill our home.

I dream about not falling asleep in every movie we try to watch.

But then I realize, this is the only way this story can go. The only way to live it out is in the mess. There will be toys all over the floor. There will be spills and stains. There will be hitting and crying. There will be noise. Lots and lots of noise.

And it’s okay. The imperfections are part of what makes the story so good.

More Beautiful

Some of the most beautiful things in the world are the things that have been worn down. The things that have been used so much, they are far from perfect.

And every crack and flaw make that item that much more beautiful.

Like a well-worn pot. Like the steps in a medieval cathedral. Like an old pair of boots. Like a hand covered with calluses. Like eyes surrounded with wrinkles.

Some things are better with imperfections.

Permission Slip

Today I give you permission.

  • I give you permission to not be perfect.
  • I give you permission to make mistakes.
  • I give you permission to mess something up.
  • I give you permission to suck at what you are trying to do.

In fact, I encourage it.

Perfect stories are fairy tales, and they are impossible. They are written in a perfect world where there is no hurt, no hunger, no disease.

But stories filled with mistakes and flaws and imperfections are real. And if you are making mistakes, that means you are living. You are doing more. You are taking risks. You are making yourself vulnerable. You are trying to do what nobody else can or will do.

In other words, you are living a life of love.

Are you trying to live the perfect story?

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

About Jeremy Statton

Jeremy is a writer and an orthopedic surgeon. When not ridding the world of pain, he helps you live a better story. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google +.

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15 Replies

  1. Love it, Jeremy. Keep living your beautiful mess.

    1. Have you seen “The Fantastic Mr. Fox”? He would call my life a cussing mess.

  2. Jim McNeely

    Perfect! Heh heh heh!

  3. I needed this today, Jeremy. Thank you for the reminder. “Perfect stories are fairy tales, and they are impossible.”

    1. I think that letting go of the fairy tale life is a first step to a better story.

  4. Fiona

    A thoughtful reflection… and thanks for the permission slip too! I’m about to start something big. It aint going to be perfect, I will make mistakes and the unexpected will happen. And I will have one hell of a story.

    1. Go live it, and then go tell it. Thanks, Fiona.

  5. Thanks, Jeremy. I needed your permission. I’m sitting here trying to make this World Race experience perfect–ignoring the fact that I haven’t eaten a real meal since Friday, don’t dread camping in the rain, and want to spend a month in a town with no internet…

    (PS: the meal thing is being handled… but a $5/day food budget only goes so far).

    1. Can you get a Big Mac for that? I hope that the World Race completely ruins your goals of perfection.

  6. Cindy Salotto

    Thanks for this open message and reminder that none of us are perfect. As a Christ follower, the church can and does struggle with mess. My life is smelly and stinky at times, but i keep moving forward, knowing God will redeem even the messes. God can use me every day for His glory despite my inadequacies, I just have to be willing.

    1. Unfortunately I’ve participated in churches where such permission was not granted. And people hid things. And they pretended to be something they weren’t. But I agree, God does not demand perfection. He loves us in spite of our mistakes and messes.

  7. Kate F

    Thanks for this. I feel like my life is a mess far too often (ok most of the time). I haven’t been able to do some things I really hoped to and my life doesn’t look at all like I had intended. But it’s real and like you I’m trying to live authentically with love. It’s good to have permission to be imperfect.

    1. It is good. I’m glad you are living it, in spite of the mess.

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