Practice Makes P---- (Excerpted from
edited: Monday, October 29, 2012
By Richard J. Bauman
Not "rated" by the Author.
Posted: Saturday, February 16, 2002
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We've all heard the axiom "Practice Makes Perfect." But that's not true.
"Practice Makes P----" shows how practice makes something even more important than "perfect."
PRACTICE MAKES P---!
It was on a weekend spiritual retreat where I heard a phrase, just three words, that changed my expectations of others, God and myself.
The retreat leader altered the old cliché; “Practice Makes Perfect,” to “Practice Makes Progress.” Doing so he changed the saying’s impact from pessimistic and impossible, to optimistic and probable.
We know no one is perfect, and won't be in this world. No matter how diligently some of us pursue perfection, we never will achieved it.
“Practice make progress,” when taken to heart is a liberating, even invigorating statement. By accepting progress as the goal, the pressure to be perfect disappears. Instead of the negativity of being imperfect, we get to focus on, accept and enjoy our progress.
The beauty of “progress,” as opposed to “perfect,” is progress is attainable. We can find the progress in our efforts. We will never find perfection in those efforts, however.
We won’t achieve perfection because we are imperfect beings. No matter what we do, we can spot our shortcomings or where we could have done better.
Progress, is attainable. Each time we do something, “practice it,” there is opportunity to improve it in some way. And since practice implies action, we have to accept that imperfect actions will be part of the progress.
A baby learning to walk plops on his/her behind many, many times. Everyone expects that. No one would demand the infant walk perfectly. As he or she becomes more confident and competent at walking, however, there are fewer plops. With practice the infant enjoys progress—with no obligation for perfection.
Perfection is unattainable and relentlessly pursuing it is a waste of energy. Nonetheless, giving up perfectionism is difficult because it seems to be a noble pursuit. Besides, if we give up perfectionism, how will we fill the void? Progress. Admire the progress. Pay attention to it. See it and emphasize it, instead of focusing on the lack of perfection. We will be happier if we pay attention to our growth, and give less attention to the dearth of perfection. “Success is achieved by development of our strengths, not by eliminating our weakness,” says syndicated columnist Marilyn Vos Savant.
By accepting progress, rather than insisting on perfection, we become more human, and honest in our relationships with others. Some of us think that being perfect will assure perfect relationships. In fact, being “perfect” usually repels rather than attracts others.
“Of all the false gods there is probably no greater nuisance in the spiritual world than the ‘god of one hundred per cent,’” writes J. B. Phillips, author of Your God is Too Small. He says that since God is Perfection, and He asks complete loyalty from us, then many of us think the way to serve God is to have absolute “one-hundred-per-cent standards and see to it that we obey them.”
Phillips says it’s erroneous to think achieving perfection is the ideal. He points out that Christ said, “Learn of Me.” “To learn implies growth…a steady upward progress toward an ideal,” writes Phillips. Not perfection, but progress.
Jesus dealt with a pack of perfectionists—the Pharisees. “For the Pharisee the emphasis is always on personal effort and achievement” notes Brennan Manning in his book, Abba's Child. “The Pharisee savored impeccable conduct.” Their foremost goal was to appear “perfect.” Repeatedly Jesus ostracized them for their behavior.
It isn’t uncommon for religions to emphasize perfectionism, demand it and acclaim pursuing it. Less common is acknowledging and accepting the value in imperfect progress.
Recognizing that practice bring “progress,” rather “perfect,” we see perfectionism for what it is—a lie—a negative character trait that pushes our lives into the negative. When we see and believe that “practice makes progress,” and embrace it, we attain self-acceptance and serenity. Further, we learn that it is progress, not perfection, which brings us to closer relationships with others, and a closer relationship with God.