IMPERFECTION

Definition of Imperfection: the state of being faulty or incomplete
Synonyms of Imperfection: irregularity, distortion, defective, deformity, etc.

These notes are from recovery in AA and/or related 12 step programs.
Readers are encouraged to click external links for more detail.
We hope you find them helpful.
Love in fellowship.

 

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The spirituality of imperfection is a spirituality of ‘not having all the answers.’ For those who have come to expect an answer to every question, a solution to every problem, and an end to every beginning, such an approach may be disconcerting at first.

Disjointed wandering is the way of imperfection blending into sometimes off-key voices harmonizing as a whole… Not perfect harmony, but harmony nonetheless. –The Spirituality of Imperfection/Ernie Kurtz & Katherine Kechum | More…

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Instead of being pretended perfectionists, in A.A. we are content if we are making progress. We are not so interested in what we are as in what we are becoming. Take each day’s happenings as opportunities for something you can do for God. –24 Hours | More…

Spirituality is, above all, a way of life. We don’t just think about it or feel it or sense it around us-we live it. In the experience of spirituality, three essential elements are always at play:

what we see, how we feel, why we choose.

Spirituality is that which allows us to get beyond the narrow confines of self. Rejoice every time you discover a new imperfection. Don’t fuss too much about yourself. — The Spirituality of Imperfection/Ernie Kurtz & Katherine Kechum | More…

Surviving our imperfections. We all sin, we all fall short, from time to time. The important question is: will we survive those fallings-short, our sins.

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To ‘survive our sins’ they must be acknowledged as sins: accepting our imperfection, means accepting it as imperfection. Such acceptance is the foundation of healing.

Our imperfection – the weakness within us that allows sin – is beneficial, for it assures that we must ‘toil and struggle and sweat’. The struggle itself proves our virtue, a synonym for strength, demonstrating we are spiritually alive. — The Spirituality of Imperfection/Ernie Kurtz & Katherine Kechum p.42-45 | More…

The secret of learning how to put up with our imperfect selves, lies in compassion, which begins with ‘putting up with’ others. Pay attention to yourself. What we do is important, but what we are is more important.

Most important, of course, is that we understand the difference. The central theme of honesty with self pervades all spiritual visions. — The Spirituality of Imperfection/Ernie Kurtz & Katherine Kechum p.47-55 | More…

The Human being is in a decidedly disordered state. A more modern expression emphasises that both the ‘best and the beast’ reside within each of us.

For it is when that both-ness is denied problems arise. In the spirituality of imperfection, we learn to accept that we are neither angel nor beast, for we are both. — The Spirituality of Imperfection/Ernie Kurtz & Katherine Kechum p.56-61 | More…

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All spirituality-especially a spirituality of imperfection-involves the perceiving, embracing, and living out of paradox. The demand for ‘either-or’ for one or the other, signals the rejection of paradox and therefore denial of spirituality. — The Spirituality of Imperfection/Ernie Kurtz & Katherine Kechum p.62-67 | More…

Spirituality is, above all, a way of life. We don’t just think about it or feel it or sense it around us-we live it. In the experience of spirituality, three essential elements are always at play: what we see, how we feel, and why we choose.

Of the three essential elements, ‘feeling’ (an episode of rapture, a warm sensation of belonging, ‘willing’ (the act of choosing). Seeing’ holds a kind of necessary priority. We must first learn ‘the proper way of viewing things.’ — The Spirituality of Imperfection/Ernie Kurtz & Katherine Kechum p.68-70 | More…

The experience of connectedness and harmony is more than simply ‘feeling good’: it involves being good. The experience of harmony and connectedness that is a part of spirituality-the ‘feeling good’ that flows from the sense of be-ing ‘good’-derives from a vision of life that sees self in perspective, as somehow fitting into the larger whole… as somehow linked.

This sense is, perhaps the most important human experience. It is certainly the deepest desire. — The Spirituality of Imperfection/Ernie Kurtz & Katherine Kechum p.72 | More…

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In the mutuality of telling and listening, between speaking and hearing, lies the deepest spiritual significance of mutual-aid groups like Alcoholics Anonymous. Those wrestling with spiritual dilemmas do not need answers but presence – permission to confront the dilemma and struggle with it aloud. –The Spirituality of Imperfection/Ernie Kurtz & Katherine Kechum p.93-94 | More…

The desire to become and the commitment to do whatever is necessary to become distinguish identification from imitation. Imitation indicates ‘wishing’.

Identification involves willing and especially willingness – the openness to do whatever is necessary to become like the model, the willingness that accepts that one can never ‘be’ another. –The Spirituality of Imperfection/Ernie Kurtz & Katherine Kechum p.89-92 | More…

Each of us is and can be only our own self. Yet learning how to be a person – or, more accurately, learning to be the particular kind of person we are – originates through identification and identification takes place in community. The question ‘Who am I?’ really asks, ‘Where do I belong or fit’. –The Spirituality of Imperfection/Ernie Kurtz & Katherine Kechum p.89-92 | More…

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Real human-hood involves not sheer physical exertion but moral and spiritual vigour.
Strenuous mood is a positive attitude of care – care for oneself, one’s family, the wider community, and possible future communities which may extend beyond the limits of one’s individual life.

The strenuous mood entails a personal identification of one’s self with a wider range of people and communities, both present and future. It involves heightening one’s sympathies and overcoming that ‘certain blindness’ in human beings which makes it difficult for us to appreciate and respect the inner meaning of another’s experience. | More…

The problem is not ‘finding’ God; as CS Lewis observed: ‘To speak of man’s search for God is like speaking of the mouse’s search for the cat.’ Francis Thompson offered an insight that comes even closer to the insight that infuses the spirituality of imperfection.

For the problem is not ‘finding’ God, but how do we let ourselves be found by a hidden God. We are all looking for, but find what we are looking for only by being looked for.

Members of AA discover that the most important discovery is that one has been discovered. The conviction that there is some reality beyond self, some ‘power greater than ourselves’ has brought hope into thousands of alcoholics lives.

One cannot escape ‘the spiritual’ even in the midst of efforts to deny it. ‘The spiritual’ is essential to being human, but ‘the spiritual’ is different from what one imagines it to be on first hearing that claim. –The Spirituality of Imperfection/Ernie Kurtz & Katherine Kechum p.107-110 | More…

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One penalty inflicted by the need to-control is the failure of awe and wonder and the consequent inability to see miracle. Addiction represents the ultimate effort to control, the definitive demand for magic…. and the failure of spirituality.

Turning to ‘Magic’ in the form of alcohol or drugs the desperate (and doomed) attempt to fill the spiritual void with a material reality – to make ‘magic’ a substitute for miracle
That false start generates ever more drastic illusions.

The search for the ‘quick fix’ inevitably unfulfilled, leaps next to the spiritual realities and search for ‘instant spirituality’. It is no wonder that locating ‘divinity’ in drink or drugs becomes a kind of spiritual death. –The Spirituality of Imperfection/Ernie Kurtz & Katherine Kechum p.120 | More…

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How can you pass on an ‘honest program’ if you aren’t honest yourself? Honesty is indivisible Spirituality is a reality that must touch all of one’s life or it touches none of one’s life.

Spirituality cannot be analysed; the spiritual has no parts. The ‘spiritual’ not only touches all of our surface – it penetrates our depths.

We must live it, think it, feel it, and most important, act it in our own lives, for only if we do it, only if we practice it, will we come to understand what it is. Healing means not the elimination but the embracing of imperfection, for only thus is it possible to find wholeness. –The Spirituality of Imperfection/Ernie Kurtz & Katherine Kechum p.144-149 | More…

What are you hiding? The question has two dimensions, striking first at denial, the essence of which lies not in deceiving others but in deceiving oneself.

Denial is self-deception. Denying one’s own identity means also deceiving oneself about the steps needed to become whole again. The second level of denial involves holding back – hiding – the denied area, refusing to make it available for healing.

And that is why stories and storytelling are so crucial in piercing denial. One must confront self-as-feared if one is ever to find self-as-is. –The Spirituality of Imperfection/Ernie Kurtz & Katherine Kechum p.149-150 | More…

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The storytelling format of ‘what we used to be like, what happened, and what we are like now.’ emphasises a process through time and so points to the healing of time. By telling of a past at work in the present, that story format effects a kind of re-creation of self by self.

In presenting ourselves as we were, we exercise the right to recover possession of our present day existence. ‘To create and in creating to be created’ perfectly describes this kind of storytelling.

Life must be lived forwards, but it can be understood only backwards Spiritual ‘pervasiveness’ embraces both the past and the future in the present moment. –The Spirituality of Imperfection/Ernie Kurtz & Katherine Kechum p.151-155 | More…

Spirituality involves not just talking about something, not just reading about or considering something, not even just doing something, It involves actually experiencing life in a new way.

Those who undergo profound change enter what is termed a new ‘universe of discourse’. How we speak shapes how we think, and therefore what we see, and then in turn what and how we experience.

Language thus fashions experience: It is how we make it ‘our own.’ Spirituality influences how we live by shaping what we experience. –The Spirituality of Imperfection/Ernie Kurtz & Katherine Kechum p.159-160 | More…

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Everything terrifying is, in its deepest being, something helpless that wants our help. So long as we cling, we are bound. Let go, and you shall be free.

We crave release, but we refuse to release – and so long as we cling, we are bound.
Spirituality is experienced, first, as Release.

Release is not the same as ‘freedom.’ Freedom cannot be given; it must be won.

Release on the contrary, is experienced rather than ‘gotten’, received rather than attained. We can experience release only if we have released – only if we have let go

When we really let go, we abdicate control, and it is this surrender of control that is so terrifying. What gets in the way here is the ‘old danger of taking ourselves too seriously’.

Jean Pierre Caussade admonitions not to ‘fuss too much about yourself’. AA members experience three levels of the experience of release.

First and most obviously comes release from the addiction itself. Second comes release from what AA refers to as the ‘root of our trouble’: self-centeredness Third comes release from denial, from the fear and dishonesty of self-deception. –The Spirituality of Imperfection/Ernie Kurtz & Katherine Kechum p.163-167 | More…

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Letting go involves a breaking down of resistance to reality, a surrender of the demand for certitude. All spiritual traditions emphasize detachment, but that emphasis does not imply that material reality should be held in contempt.

The object itself is not the problem. Difficulties arise when our relationships with our possessions becomes attachment. Part of our human be-ing involves a profound need for other human beings.

The first and essential detachment must be from the attempt and the claim to control others. It is suggested; First we need to become detached from material gain, second from self-importance, and third from the urge to dominate others.

In AA detachment from the need to be right, surrender of the ‘demand to have the last word’, seems a prerequisite to the kind of listening that allows participation in the healing power of storytelling.

The attempt to control the future and the demand to be in charge of everything in our lives sentences us to a daily existence obsessed with life-numbing worry.  –The Spirituality of Imperfection/Ernie Kurtz & Katherine Kechum p.170-174 | More…

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Thinking is a kind of thanking. In thanking we accept the gift of existence.

In accepting ourselves, we become ourselves. As released, we gratefully enter into the play of which we are already a part.

Releasement means ‘homecoming’.
Thinking as thanking means loving. -Michael Zimmerman

Gratitude is heaven itself. -William Blake. Because Release is a gift – a reality not earned – there flows naturally from the experience of release, the experiencing of Gratitude.

Gratitude can best be defined and understood as the only possible response to a gift freely given. Gratitude is the vision – the way of seeing – that recognizes ‘gift.’

A true gift is inspired rather than occasioned. To say ‘thank you’ is to ‘pass it on’ – to give to students as the teacher has been given to.

What do you have that you have not received? Gratitude responds, ‘Thank you’ Greed demands, ‘More.’ –The Spirituality of Imperfection/Ernie Kurtz & Katherine Kechum p.175-179 | More…

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St. Bernard
asked to list four cardinal virtues, answered: ‘Humility, humility, humility, and humility.’ ‘You alone can do it, but you cannot do it alone’ – O. Hobart Mowrer

In an era that fawns of ‘the rich and famous’ and cries, ‘Me First,’ humility is a concept scorned or, worse, neglected. The ancient, favourable sense of the word – connoting mildness, modesty, patience of spirit, and the willingness to remove oneself from the center of the universe – has been eroded in the modern era.

Humility signifies, simply, the acceptance of being human, the acceptance of one’s human being. It is the embrace of the both-and-ness, both saint and sinner, both beast and angel, that constitutes our very be-ing as human.

Humility is, above all, honesty True humility neither exaggerates nor minimizes but accepts.

‘To be humble is not to make comparisons.’ Saint Augustine observed; ‘It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels’.

The opposite of humility is grandiosity. The alcoholic’s problem is not that he thinks, ‘I am very special.’ Nor that he thinks, ‘I am a worm’.

The alcoholic’s problem is that he is convinced: ‘I am a very special worm’. Humility is the embrace of ordinariness.

Humility sees us as good enough, even in our ordinariness. Humility allows us to find the fittingness in our own imperfection.

Because the acceptance of both-and-ness implies acceptance of our imperfection as imperfection rather than the claim to find in it some ‘very specialness’ humility is the foundation and keystone of any spirituality of imperfection. Spirituality goes on and on and on, a never-ending adventure of coming to know ourselves, seeing ourselves clearly, learning to be at home with ourselves. –The Spirituality of Imperfection/Ernie Kurtz & Katherine Kechum p.185-194 | More…

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Once you adopt a spirituality of imperfection, you know that you can’t do anything – good or bad – perfectly. Or as John Updike put it: ‘The world punishes us for taking it too seriously as well as for not taking it seriously enough.’ The point of humility is to find a balance.

AA’s contribution to the tradition of a spirituality of imperfection can be summed up in two words: sober alcoholic. Seeing first one’s own defects and shortcomings is Humility; the fruit of that vision is Tolerance. –The Spirituality of Imperfection/Ernie Kurtz & Katherine Kechum p.195-196  More…

Honesty gets us sober, but tolerance keeps us sober, observed Bill Wilson. Tolerance is the antechamber to forgiveness, the tolerance that is the flowering of a spirituality of imperfection

It seems by accepting the weaknesses, limitations, and mixed-up-ed-ness of those we love and respect, do we love and respect them. Learning to live with other human beings is one of the grand classic problems of human be-ing. –The Spirituality of Imperfection/Ernie Kurtz & Katherine Kechum p.200-204 | More…

The term pity invites misunderstanding, the word means simply the unity that comes from shared suffering – the identification that alone can sustain true Tolerance. Identify, don’t compare, AA advises.

Comparing has to do with quantifying, weighing one thing against another, which has to do with the ‘material’; the spiritual, of course cannot be compared. Thus the chief danger of comparison is that it locks us into the non-spiritual, the material. Identification has been called the ‘halfway house between self-love and other-love.’

Identification is that aspect of spirituality’s vision that allows us to see that we humans are all united in not being ‘God.’ A variety of models encourages looking to others strengths rather than focusing on their weaknesses. It invites tolerance. –The Spirituality of Imperfection/Ernie Kurtz & Katherine Kechum p.204-208 | More…

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The classic AA advice to ‘pray for the son of a bitch’ underlines the fact we are forgiven only if we are willing, first, to forgive. All agree that the main effect of prayer is upon the pray-er.

Prayer has been described as ‘a habit of interior attentiveness, and activity that creates a formerly unknown self.’ Further descriptions suggest ‘prayer is a scream, a cry for help. (from our creator)

Prayer heals brokenness – not only the broken community, but the brokenness within that is unforgiveness., the inability to forgive. Most know that Muslims pray five times daily; few remember that the word Islam means ‘submission.’

To see ‘self-as-victim’ is to adopt a worldview in which forgiveness becomes impossible. Within that understanding comes the profound realisation that we have been forgiven for our own imperfections.

We do not forgive; instead, we discover forgiveness in both its forms Both that we have been forgiven and that we have forgiven. –The Spirituality of Imperfection/Ernie Kurtz & Katherine Kechum p.219-222| More…

In a world that lives less ‘on’ the edge than ‘by’ the edge, forgiveness is not explanation.
Exploring possible psychological facets of behaviours the question asked is: ‘Do you want forgiveness or an explanation?’

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Explanations
have to do with exploring causes, with digging down into the past, in an effort to exert whatever control is still possible over the past. For-GIVE-ness, connotes gift; to confuse forgiving with forgetting would lose – even violate – that reality.

A spirituality of imperfection raises another kind of forgiveness, the need we humans occasionally have to forgive God. Somehow, when we do that ‘together’, healing and forgiveness – not only by ‘God’ but even of ‘God’ – can happen. –The Spirituality of Imperfection/Ernie Kurtz & Katherine Kechum p.223-226 | More…

Don’t see the other human beings angrily, see your own anger. –Evargius Ponticus
Live in a world of facts… attending to things as they are. –William James

They lived sixteen centuries apart, but Evargius Ponticus and William James alike recognized and urged willing – choosing – as the key to spirituality’s union of vision and feeling. Spirituality is experience, and as James so simply noted, ‘My experience is what I agree to attend to.’

Belief is one of the indispensable preliminary conditions of the realization of its object. Believe, and you shall be right, for you shall save yourself doubt, and you shall again be right, for you shall perish. The only difference is that to believe is greatly to your advantage.

We act our way into a new way of thinking. Understanding, acceptance, commitment… in community we learn that the experience of spirituality is more than seeing, more than feeling, more than willing It is the essential interplay and interconnection of all three.  –The Spirituality of Imperfection/Ernie Kurtz & Katherine Kechum p.78-81 | More…

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Community is created when people seek the same spiritual reality. The key to community is the discovery we are all looking for, but we find what we are looking for only by being looked for.

In such company, one is likely to find friends who are guides; wise women and men who listen well, who offer advice and support, who help us to clarify our questions, to recognize our options and to make our choices, and who seek and find in us the same realities.

Unity, our own wholeness, is discovered only within community; and ‘community’ comes into being only co-intentionally, in the recognition and acceptance of mutuality.

Spiritual ‘directors’ – those who offer a sense of direction – rarely ‘teach’ in the ordinary sense of telling truths. Instead they serve first and foremost as ‘listeners’, hearers who attend in a way that elicits honesty, sincerity, truthfulness, and conscientiousness from the speaker.

Only in telling another the truth about ourselves do we discover the truth about ourselves. Honesty with others is essential to honesty with self as honesty with self is essential to honesty with others. We can ‘tell’ only what we know, but we come to ‘know’ only in the telling. –The Spirituality of Imperfection/Ernie Kurtz & Katherine Kechum p.87-89 | More…

Real human-hood involves not sheer physical exertion but moral and spiritual vigour.
Strenuous mood is a positive attitude of care – care for oneself, one’s family, the wider community, and possible future communities which may extend beyond the limits of one’s individual life.

The strenuous mood entails a personal identification of one’s self with a wider range of people and communities, both present and future. It involves heightening one’s sympathies and overcoming that ‘certain blindness’ in human beings which makes it difficult for us to appreciate and respect the inner meaning of another’s experience.

In the mutuality of telling and listening, between speaking and hearing, Lies the deepest spiritual significance of mutual-aid groups like Alcoholics Anonymous.. Those wrestling with spiritual dilemmas do not need answers but presence Permission to confront the dilemma and struggle with it aloud. –The Spirituality of Imperfection/Ernie Kurtz & Katherine Kechum p.93-94 | More…

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Perhaps the main benefit of the storytelling format is that it invites, enables, and teaches listening. The practice of telling stories gives birth to good listeners.

The world has always needed good listeners, for only good listeners are truthful tellers.
‘Good listening’ involves the surrender of a self-centered view of the world; it entails the equation of trust and love that flows from that surrender.

To listen, to surrender, to trust, to love: These are to be open for discovery. Spirituality flourishes in discovery, and especially in the discovery of shared story – the discovery that creates community.

For community is where we can learn and practice storytelling and its virtues, ‘humility’ and ‘obedience’ – two painfully misunderstood qualities that are really ‘the arts of listening’.

The identification that sprang from their listening to each other helped both Bill Wilson and Dr Bob Smith to the understanding – the vision – that the purpose of life wasn’t to get but give…. for only when you give, do you get!

In their first meeting with each other, Bull W. and Dr, Bob did listen avidly, and in that listening both came to the realization that what they needed was dialogue, and that in their shared alcoholism, on the basis of their common imperfection, they had found it.

Dr Bob later explained the most profound message he had learned from Bill W. The spiritual approach was as useless as any other if you soaked it up like a sponge and kept it to yourself. –The Spirituality of Imperfection p.95-97 | More…

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