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There is a crack in everything—that’s how the light gets in. – Leonard Cohen
The day the child realizes that all adults are imperfect, he becomes an adolescent; the day he forgives them, he becomes an adult; the day he forgives himself, he becomes wise. – Alden Nowlan
My imperfections and failures are as much a blessing from God as my successes and my talents and I lay them both at his feet. – Mahatma Gandhi
When one has once fully entered the realm of love, the world–no matter how imperfect–becomes rich and beautiful, it consists solely of opportunities for love. – Soren Kierkegaard
All religions teach that we should love one another; that we should seek out our own shortcomings before we presume to condemn the faults of others, that we must not consider ourselves superior to our neighbors! – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 149.
The Baha’i teachings, and all truly spiritual paths, challenge each seeker to directly face and deal with his or her own inner demons.
We all have them, those imperfections and problems and issues that hamper our spiritual growth. The process that allows us to understand them and struggle to overcome them, as painful and troublesome as it can sometimes be, has a direct relationship to every person’s spiritual progress.
In many ways, facing and dealing with your own inner imperfections represents the main purpose of walking a spiritual path:
It is my hope that you may consider this matter, that you may search out your own imperfections and not think of the imperfections of anybody else. Strive with all your power to be free from imperfections. Heedless souls are always seeking faults in others. What can the hypocrite know of others’ faults when he is blind to his own? …As long as a man does not find his own faults, he can never become perfect. Nothing is more fruitful for man than the knowledge of his own shortcomings. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 244.
As human beings, we tend to ignore, deny or remain blissfully ignorant about our own flaws. If you don’t believe it, try this exercise: make a list of your shortcomings, the things you would really like to change about yourself. You’ll likely find that it’s not an easy task.
Here’s one approach that can make it much simpler and more productive–the Baha’i practice of bringing yourself to account at the end of each day:
O Son of Being! Bring thyself to account each day ere thou art summoned to a reckoning; for death, unheralded, shall come upon thee and thou shalt be called to give account for thy deeds. – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, p. 11.
When you review your deeds daily, just by setting aside some time each day to go over your actions and their outcomes, you give yourself a gauge of progress and growth. Many psychologists and therapists recommend this practice, whether by regular reflection, meditation or by journaling, because it provides clarity and a sense of direction to life. From a spiritual perspective, especially for seekers walking a path of inner growth and maturation, it provides us with a regular time each day to check in with our souls.
Daily self-accounting has another benefit, too—it can give you a way to measure your progress. When you identify an inner shortcoming, you can work on it each day and, after several of those days have passed, do a personal inventory and see how you’re doing. When this daily spiritual practice continues habitually over time, it can reform the human character, educate the soul and enlighten the spirit:
Let us turn toward the spiritual sun and acquire a light which will render the world luminous, so that we may be freed from matter and acquire celestial qualities, that this limited life may merge into the eternal. When man thus adorns himself, he will progress every day with new vigor; his soul will become more and more sensitized and the laws and morals of the world will be reconstructed with divine conviction. Then man will make real discoveries, penetrate the mysteries and so reflect them that he will become the image of God. – Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 58.
This daily practice of reflection and self-accounting also makes for an increase in humility, because doing it regularly reminds us of our own faults and foibles, and allows us to better feel love for all humanity:
Be in perfect unity. Never become angry with one another. Let your eyes be directed toward the kingdom of truth and not toward the world of creation. Love the creatures for the sake of God and not for themselves. You will never become angry or impatient if you love them for the sake of God. Humanity is not perfect. There are imperfections in every human being, and you will always become unhappy if you look toward the people themselves. But if you look toward God, you will love them and be kind to them, for the world of God is the world of perfection and complete mercy. Therefore, do not look at the shortcomings of anybody; see with the sight of forgiveness. The imperfect eye beholds imperfections. The eye that covers faults looks toward the Creator of souls. He created them, trains and provides for them, endows them with capacity and life, sight and hearing; therefore, they are the signs of His grandeur. You must love and be kind to everybody, care for the poor, protect the weak, heal the sick, teach and educate the ignorant. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 92.