With another year ending, now is the time when most people reflect on what the year has brought and make a resolution for the upcoming year. Usually resolutions have a lot to do with modifying a person’s external image—losing weight, getting more organized, eating healthier etc. People today are obsessed with perfection. They put up fronts like you wouldn’t believe. Most people only put up their best photos on Facebook, and there’s always that one family that shows up to a public place with the façade that they have everything together even if things are falling apart behind closed doors.
The reality is that no one is perfect. In the past year, I’ve learned that life is about progress, not perfection.
Especially from being homeless.
When my family and I finally did move out of a hotel and into an apartment, we pretty much started from scratch. We had lost a lot of our belongings and had to start over—sleeping on mattresses on the floor until we could get bed frames, making due with what we had. My apartment now is by no means perfect. But, hey, I’ve got a home and we all have a bed to sleep in. That’s progress.
Another way I’ve learned this lesson about “progress not perfection” is through a program called Celebrate Recovery. It is a Christ-centered twelve-step recovery program that deals not only in drug and alcohol addictions but with any hurt, habit, or hang up that you have. I’m living proof that the program is not just about a drug or alcohol addiction. I have been dealing with a pornography addiction for much of my life, and that is how I ended up there in the first place.
A lot of the relationships I have now came from Celebrate Recovery—they are the people I now surround myself with, because they are the people who taught me that I don’t need to expect myself to be perfect, that I don’t need to beat myself up when I screw up, that I shouldn’t isolate myself when I make mistakes but instead reach out to God and to others for help.
One of the most significant relationships was with my sponsor, Amber. She has seen me at my worst, and then watched me grow. She wasn’t afraid to tell me if I was doing something wrong, what I was doing right, and anything in between. She was always, always honest with me, no matter what. Never to hurt, but to speak truth when I needed to hear it. Recently I was talking to her and asking her what she remembered of our times spent together. “The biggest thing I’ve seen in you is your steadfastness,” she said. “Your ability to get back on the horse. You’ve grown and gotten to the point that when you screw up, you know you screwed up, but you own it and then move on. That’s pretty good.” In other words, what matters is not that you are perfect, but that you know how to deal with mistakes.
Since my time in the program I have at times gone back to using porn, but I’ve come back again and again to find where the root of the problem is and work on fixing the problem. Hopefully it will never happen again, but I’m only human. I will make mistakes, but the important thing is that I get back at it again. Life is about progress, not perfection.
And that is a message we could all embrace this New Year’s Day.