I once started making a list of my imperfections, with the idea that I could take action to correct my weaknesses only if I were fully conscious of them. Initially, only a few were blatantly obvious to me, but as I sat thinking about my flaws, others came to mind.

The longer I sat thinking of items to add to my list, the longer the list became. The list was not simply a single sheet listing my personal failings; it grew into a thick spiral-bound notebook. Page after page after page of shortcomings.

My list was an inventory of my every blemish, every defect, and every scar. The exercise, started with the intent of self-improvement, had turned into a depressing assessment of someone whose flaws were so extensive, so overwhelming that they were numbing. There were just too many problems to fix. Yet I continued adding to it from time to time, not knowing why, nor what I might do with the list if I were to ever finish it.

The list stayed with me for weeks. During that time, I thought about it a  lot. I wondered how anyone could possibly enjoy being around a person with so damn many flaws. Yet I spent time with people who seemed to enjoy my company. And I wondered if they, too, had so many imperfections.

Somewhere along the line, I recall hearing the aphorism “the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.” Trite, yes, but true. But before I began taking those bites, I considered some advice that said, in effect, “you are the sum of your virtues and your vices, so take care in eliminating either that you become a lesser person.”

I took that advice to heart. It may have been the easy way out, but it lifted a weight off my shoulders. I don’t know what became of my list, but if I ever need to recreate it, I’m sure I can do it in short order.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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