Spoiler Alert: I Will Let You Down
I will let you down.
There I said it, so don’t be surprised when I do.
All my consistency, discipline and good intentions are ultimately undermined by one thing:
Below are a couple of thoughts about integrity, imperfection and embracing our flaws.
But don’t worry, it’s not all doom and gloom, towards the end I’ll give some action points.
We all trust something
If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time you’ll know I come from an extremely religious background.
In all religions, it’s common practice to see people trust in deity, spiritual leaders and even physical objects..
On the other hand, the secular world on the outside often points in and jeers at such practices claiming it is childish, nonsensical and borderline insane…
E.g. “how can you guys believe in that ********”
I get it.
But what never ceases to amaze me is how quick the secular world rushes to commit their trust in the exact same way (or often with even more devotion and passion) in ‘mere mortals’ and ‘stuff.’
I’m talking about politicians, industry leaders, researchers and the massive pop-cult genre of self-help gurus/writers.
Names don’t even have to be named here because many will have come to your mind while reading the above sentence.
For me this tells us 2 things:
It’s in our nature to long to trust in something/someone ‘greater’ than ourselves.
We like to organise ourselves into tribes.
Tribes may seem like a scary word, but it’s an extremely accurate one.
I agree with Seth Godin in his book Tribes (Amazon Affiliate link) in saying that this isn’t a negative thing we should be afraid of, but actually something that is quite exciting and quite human.
Before tribes solely depended on geography and biology, whereas now tribes can be formed around every idea, hobby and passion with large amounts of people from anywhere in the world.
This isn’t negative, it’s incredible.
But, what I do think is negative is that we often put our trust in the wrong places.
Even better: we put too much of ourselves into places that are guaranteed to let us down.
The last few months of scandals have sent tidal waves of doubt and mistrust across our culture as many of our well-loved and trusted mentors, idols and role models have fallen from grace.
It can be easy to feel that the ground/foundation we have built ourselves and our culture upon are not as steady as we once thought.
Don’t build your house on the sand
Jesus told a story in Luke chapter 6 about two men building houses.
One built it on the sand.
One built it on a rock.
Of course when the rough weather hit, the house on the sand was swept away but the home on the rock remained.
As a Christian it’s no secret that I would suggest to you that the only thing worth trusting in this life is God.
But this leaves us with two issues:
Not all of you reading believe that to be true.
All of us still live with, work with and love flawed human beings.
Whatever your stance on faith is, C.S. Lewis gives some middle-ground in his book Mere Christianity (Amazon Affiliate link) based on this parable for all of us to walk through the rest of this article on common ground.
It doesn’t matter what a person has achieved, how much we love them or how trustworthy they are, because at the end of the day they are still human.
For sure, this is a somber thought, but bare with me as we go a little bit deeper before taking a look at how we can take action in light of all this.
The Empire Of Johnny Cash
He was one of the biggest and most successful music legends in the last 100 years.
His fame seemed endless and he captured the ears (and many hearts) of a generation.
But the last note of his career ended with one final big hit before he and his wife June died in 2003.
His cover of the song ‘Hurt’ by Nine Inch Nails.
The Independent labelled this as ‘the saddest music video of all time and suggested it “spoke of the transcience of life, the gracelessness of death… the cline of a genre, an era and an attitude.”
In my opinion it was the most powerful song of his career and is among some of the most moving piece of music out there.
A 71 year old man reflecting on what it was like to have and lose it all.
Talk about poignant.
The two lines that haunt me the most about Trent Reznor’s song are these:
They haunt me because I know I could look everyone I care about most in the world in their eye, say these words to them and know them to be true.
But this doesn’t defeat or sadden me, rather the opposite.
In fact I would urge us all to embrace this truth and do so gladly.
Because it is a confession that we are not perfect.
That pursuing flawlessness is like chasing the wind.
And the best news of all is that we are all in the same boat.
There is a relief that washes over me when I embrace that.
There is a peace in knowing I am not the only one.
But what now?
How to live an imperfect life
Here are a few ways I suggest we can actually thrive in the face of our imperfection and flaws.
1. Be humble and ask for help
You don’t know it all nor do you need to.
That’s what other people are for and why we have families, teams and tribes.
(p.s. be quick to give help too, this works both ways.)
2. Be quick to admit flaws
Nothing has made me more chronically aware of my own flaws than leadership and marriage (I’m told parenting is the next one to wake me up even more!)
In these contexts, the worst thing I can do is hide and ignore my flaws (I’ve learned this the hard way.)
Plus it’s often only in openness that we can find the healing, forgiveness and mentorship we so desperately need to actually address those flaws.
Brad Reed from the New York Dream Center has a great way of looking at integrity that has always stuck with me:
“Integrity means living falselessly not flawlessly.”
We’ve all seen too many great men and women fall because they felt they had to be perfect when in the end this caused them to self-destruct.
Sadly this happens both inside and outside of the church. After each scandal we end up asking ourselves: what if.
- What if someone was there to listen.
- What if someone was there to walk through these flaws with them.
- What if they didn’t feel like they had to keep it all to themselves.
3. Learn to give and receive grace
I always undervalue the power and value of grace until I actually experience it.
There really is nothing quite like it.
When I’ve messed up and deserve anger, disappointment or disgust and instead someone shows me grace – that’s a high and release unlike any other.
You can give that to others,
To the people in your life.
And if you’re fortunate,
It’ll be given back to you too.
Grace is costly. It always requires sacrifice.
- The setting aside of anger.
- The abandonment of revenge.
- The forgiveness.
Grace is one of the most expensive things you can give away, but it’s also one of the most worthy.
The longer I live and the more I write the more I become so keenly aware of my own flaws.
With that in mind I have two things to ask of you:
Please don’t put your whole faith/trust in me or any other person.
Please show me grace when I need it the most.
I’ll do my best to do the same for you when the time comes.
“If I could start again
A million miles away
I would keep myself
I would find a way…”
– Last lines of ‘Hurt.’
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All the best.
– Matthew Thompson
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