May 14, 2011

Living with Imperfection II


Cardinal John Henry Newman once said that nothing would ever be done if we waited until we could do it so perfectly that no one could find fault with it. When I first became an editor, I went to a seminar where the instructor said that every book published should have two typographical errors. The idea was that the amount of work it would take to get those last two typos out of a manuscript was not worth it. Editors just have to live with imperfection if they were going to accomplish anything.
That was a very liberating lesson for me—and not just in my editing work. I am very much an imperfect editor, parent, spouse, coach, community organizer and church volunteer. I have to learn to live with it, and living with imperfection is one of the disciplines within the spirituality of work that I now practice.
The beauty of this particular discipline is that we don’t have to do much to remember to practice it. Our imperfections rise up and confront us, and if they don’t, our bosses (or colleagues or spouses or children) are quick to point them out! We need to build into the workday concrete ways of accepting that we are not perfect. For example, every time I find a typo in one of the books I publish, I give glory to God.
-Greg Pierce-

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