“Pride must die in you, or nothing of heaven can live in you.” —Andrew Murray
9 months ago, Leo Babauta wrote a blog post titled I Failed. Immediately upon reading it, I wished I had written it. It was good and true and honest. But more importantly, it was freeing—for both the reader and writer.
More recently, I have been moved by the words of Brian Gardner and his continued pleas for authenticity. I read his thoughts on living unfiltered and again, streams of freedom flow in his writing. Sarah Peck also has a similar influence on me.
There is great freedom in authenticity.
One evening last month, while sitting at my dining room table, I suffered a dark moment of depravity. I received good news from a friend on the telephone. He’s a good person—someone I admire and look up to.
Understandably, he began telling me some of the wonderful things that had happened in his career. In a moment where I should have been rejoicing alongside him, I felt jealousy instead. I knew it was wrong for me to react this way, but it was the first emotion that surfaced. And no matter how many times I congratulated him, the bitter feeling of envy would not depart.
A few days later, unable to shake my jealousy, I called a friend and poured out my heart. I expressed my frustration with my weakness and asked for help. She responded, “You just accomplished the most important step: admitting this out loud to a trusted friend. Confess your weakness. The sooner you call it what it is, the sooner you are able to move on from it.”
Again, I was reminded there is great freedom in admitting our weakness.
- It removes the artificial walls we have built around us.
- It provides the pathway to begin addressing our faults.
- It opens the door for accountability from others.
- It embraces a life of honesty—with others and with ourselves.
- It offers opportunity to connect with others as they see themselves in our weaknesses.
- It allows others to love us for who we truly are.
- It reminds us we are not alone in our faults. To be human is to be weak.
And yet, as much freedom as there is to be found in authenticity, it is still difficult. Admitting weakness still feels a lot like admitting weakness. But when there are so many advantages to be found in it, perhaps the greatest step is to admit our fear and humbly become transparent anyway.
Allow me to start: I am flawed.
Even more difficult to admit, I struggle with the same flaws over and over again. I know them intimately well and sometimes feel powerless to overcome them.
Seven of My Greatest Flaws
Jealousy. I have struggled with jealousy as long as I can remember. Typically, I blame it on a twin brother who is five inches taller with much broader shoulders. But my jealousy and envy run deeper than mere sibling rivalry. I find myself jealous of the skill and success of other writers. And I am jealous of those who are younger but have accomplished more. Sometimes I find motivation in this envy, but most of the time it is only crippling and burdensome.
Desire for Approval. I seek praise and approval from others—to an unhealthy and damaging degree. This desire keeps my heart and mind focused on myself too much. Often, it inhibits my ability to even be myself. I sometimes write and say things just because I know people want to hear them. And far too often, I withhold strongly held opinions because I know they are unpopular or fear they will not be accepted. There is no freedom when the desire for approval exceeds the desire to be yourself.
Lack of Self-Discipline. I am less self-disciplined than most. I write often about the importance of rising early, turning off distractions, and focused devotion to meditation. I have experienced beauty and joy in each. And yet, I sleep in far too many mornings each week and have played far more Candy Crush on my iPhone than I’d ever care to admit. I waste countless hours each week when I should be working or devoted to more important pursuits (meditation, reading, exercise). I desperately envy those who do not need a deadline to complete a project.
Selfishness. I love generosity. It is important and valuable. It is wonderful to write about, but difficult to practice. Even when it was difficult, I donated 10% of my income to charity, sometimes even more. I am thankful for the financial and the life lessons I have learned from the discipline. But nowadays, money is not tight. I have more liquid assets today than at any point before and my expenses are the lowest they have been in 10 years. And yet, during a stage of life when excessive generosity should be easier than ever, I find myself holding on to more than ever. My selfishness is being revealed during a time of plenty.
Guilt over Physical Possessions. I own more things than I need. I own less than most, but still more than I need. There are books under my bed and tools in my garage that will never be used. There are CDs and DVDs and couches (yes, couches) we intend to sell but haven’t yet. Some of the closets in my home are embarrassingly full. I believe strongly in the benefits of owning and buying less. And I have written often that my practice of minimalism is much less extreme than most. But still, I continue to have this nagging feeling that I am no less qualified to write about this topic than anyone else.
Lack of Empathy. I am less compassionate than I should be. It’s not that I don’t care about the emotional needs of the people around me, it’s that I don’t even think to notice them. As I dig deeper into this fault, I continue to run into my desire for approval from others. I go through my day so focused on being noticed and validated by others, I don’t even shift my focus long enough to notice the pain of others.
Protecting my Image. I suffer through a constant need to protect my image. I rarely express weakness to even my closest friends as I work desperately hard to protect their thoughts about me. I rarely ask for help—to do so would be to admit my need for it. Indeed, my pride runs very deep and expresses itself in numerous ways. Perhaps its greatest expression is my desire to pretend that it is well-placed.
There is great freedom in authenticity. I am thankful for those who have gone before and modeled it for me.
In a world where our public image can be meticulously crafted though Instagram and Facebook and Twitter and personal blogs, we must work hard to embrace our authenticity and overcome the fear associated with exposing our faults.
I hope you will join me in doing just that.
Add a comment below expressing 1-2 of your greatest weaknesses. Or join the chat on Twitter by including the hashtag (#iamflawed).
Together, we can experience greater freedom. And encourage others to do the same.
Roxie Defant says
Thank you for this honest self portrait! We all have our faults & flounder more often than we care to admit; but in being able to admit our short comings, we grow & understand ourselves on a much deeper level. My two biggest faults are not having enough self control, & judging others. When it comes to self control I know what works best for me & what makes me happiest, but for some reason I always get stuck a few times a year falling back into old patterns that do nothing but hinder my growth. And as for judging: I am outraged when others judge someone, yet when I do it it’s okay because I do it ‘tactfully’ & with a caring heart. Judgement is judgement is judgement & I am no better than anyone else who does it; I need to be ever vigilent because judging others does not help me grow, it only stunts my growth.
Paula White says
This is a really important blog. I feel that not just you, but the whole world can take a deep sigh of relief at saying, you know what, I’m not perfect and sometimes I get things wrong.
I’d like to share with you this blog of when I had publicly set myself a goal and then failed. Hope it makes useful reading. http://www.thewhiteapproach.co.uk/2013/05/goal-setting-knowing-when-to-walk-away/
Really, the only relevant thing on your list is having more stuff than you want, even though you talk minimalism. All the other stuff is personal, pertaining to a whole lot of rules you make up for yourself. I, myself, don’t go by those rules; I don’t care if you do or don’t. Unconditional self-love is where it’s at. Experiment and experience: this is life.
joshua becker says
I disagree that the other items on my list pertain to rules I have made up for myself. I believe they find their root in responsibility—responsibility to others and responsibility to myself. Unconditional self-love is not the same as unconditional self-acceptance.
Joshua, I loved your post. The tears are still wet on my face. Can you please elaborate on your comment: “Unconditional self-love is not the same as unconditional self-acceptance”? I would think we can’t have one without the other, aka we won’t have one without the other.
Never mind. We have different beliefs about this, and I knew that when I clicked on the link with “my flaws” in the title. I don’t think what I have to say is an asset to this discussion or on your site. Nonetheless, I have enjoyed many of your articles. Thanks for sharing yourself with the world; that’s not for the weak, that’s for sure!
Was this post written by me? I struggle with pretty much the same flaws. I envy more than I’d like (also because I wouldn’t like to feel any jealousy at all…) and I envy those who (I think) get more approval than I do, and those more disciplined than me… Thank you so much for sharing this.
I’m not a writer but I still struggle with the “deadline” issue. We tell ourselves we work better under pressure, then complain there’s too much pressure. I am a twin to some degree on all of your issues, but if we are human then we will all share the same flaws somewhat. I struggle and pray for help with some of the same issues over and over. It’s frustrating to say the least and the only one to blame is – me. That makes it even worse! (It’s almost funny!)
I will add that I believe the “wasted” time playing games or daydreaming is not always wasted. Sometimes it is a much needed “blank” space. My mother used to say she didn’t like pictures, etc hanging on every wall. She said the eye needed a place to rest – a “blank” space. I’ve found that sometimes our minds do as well. Don’t be too hard on yourself. You have inspired me more times than I can count! Thank you for sharing and allowing us to share as well.
Patricia Leigh Allen says
Excellent piece, Joshua!
Melissa Johnson says
It is good you have and recognize your flaws. Without them what would you write about. It is working on these flaws that that give you the depth and emotion that is revealed in your writing .
Thank you so much for your authenticity – as you say, it is so freeing for others and for myself! Now then: I don’t seek “applause”, but I want to please and to have everyone thinking good of me. It has gotten better, and I also realise (as you put it) that if I am not so concentrated on my “image” and what the other person thinks of me, I am sooo much more capable of realising his or her pain, anxiety, or whatever burden someone bears. Second big flaw: I tend to think I am always right, know it all…be proud (ouch. Don’t like this word at all.) Well – have to stop know. If not, I’ll tell you everything :-)
All of the above! I like what you said about becoming transparent. I took on a leadership role in my community last Fall and am trying to be transparent about my flaws and weaknesses. I am often told that I shouldn’t show these things, but I truly believe that when doing community work, one should be unafraid to know and voice weaknesses. Because this is how we show the community who we really are and who we really are (flaws and weaknesses and such) is just exactly what’s needed for better interactions, especially when the the work that’s being done is for the benefit of the entire community.
Glenn Judge says
Flaws (as you’ve accepted are part of you) are what make us human. We’re not perfect machines that can be made ‘pure’ or to our own design. At best we can chip away at them, or perhaps more realistically, accept they form part of our complex human nature. Minimalism to me, works best at clearing up a little space in our lives both physically and mentally. That process may make our flaws more visible but I don’t believe they can be disposed of like our excessive physical possessions.
Maybe it would help if we we’re mindful and accepting of our flaws. If you take away your value judgements on them they are just a natural part of universal human nature along with virtues like kindness, empathy and generosity. If you’re religious you may see flaws as sins that need to be eradicated, but unless they are directly hurting you or others then for me just tolerate them.