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A Spirituality of Imperfection
A Spirituality of Imperfection

Accepting Our Imperfections

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Richard shares how the teachings of Thérèse of Lisieux have supported his own spiritual journey: 

French Catholicism in Thérèse’s time emphasized an ideal of human perfection, but Thérèse humbly trusted her own experience and taught the spirituality of imperfection instead. Thérèse is one of my favorite saints, perhaps because I’m an Enneagram Type One. The trap for the One is self-created perfectionism, which makes us dissatisfied and disappointed by nearly everything, starting with ourselves. 

Thérèse has helped me to embrace imperfection—my own and others. When her sister Céline was upset with her own faults, Thérèse instructed, “If you want to bear in peace the trial of not pleasing yourself, you will give [the Virgin Mary] a sweet home.” [1] If we pay attention even for an hour, we observe how hard it is to be “displeasing” to ourselves! Often, this is the emotional snag that sends us into terribly bad moods without even realizing the origins of these moods. To resolve this problem, Thérèse teaches us to let go of the very need to “think well of yourself” to begin with! That’s our ego talking, not God.

Worthiness is not the issue; the issue is trust and surrender. As Thérèse understood, “Jesus does not demand great actions from us but simply surrender and gratitude.” [2] Let’s resolve this once and for all: You’re not worthy! None of us are. Don’t even go down that worthiness road. It’s a game of denial and pretend. We’re all saved by grace. We’re all being loved in spite of ourselves. That’s why I can also say, “You’re all worthy! But your worthiness has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with the goodness of God.

Brené Brown, a contemporary teacher who extols the gifts of imperfection, writes:

It is in the process of embracing our imperfections that we find our truest gifts: courage, compassion, and connection. . . .

When we can let go of what other people think and own our story, we gain access to our worthiness—the feeling that we are enough just as we are and that we are worthy of love and belonging. When we spend a lifetime trying to distance ourselves from the parts of our lives that don’t fit with who we think we’re supposed to be, we stand outside of our story and hustle for our worthiness by constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing, and proving. . . .

There is a line from Leonard Cohen’s song “Anthem” that serves as a reminder to me when . . . I’m trying to control everything and make it perfect. The line is, “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” [3] . . . This line helps me remember the beauty of the cracks (and the messy house and the imperfect manuscript and the too-tight jeans). It reminds me that our imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together. Imperfectly, but together. [4]


[1] Thérèse to Sister Geneviève (Céline), December 24, 1896, in Thérèse of Lisieux: General Correspondence, vol. 2, 1890–1897, trans. John Clarke (Washington, DC: ICS Publications, 1988), 1038. Note: Thérèse imagined this note as written by the Virgin Mary, and wrote “Message from the Blessed Virgin” on the envelope.

[2] Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, trans. John Clarke, 2nd ed. (Washington, DC: ICS Publications, 1976), 188.

[3] Leonard Cohen, “Anthem,” The Future (New York: Columbia, 1992).

[4] Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are (Center City, MN: Hazelden, 2010), 57–58, 23, 61.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi(Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Media, 2014), 111–112; and

The Authority of Those Who Have Suffered (Albuquerque, NM: Center for Action and Contemplation, 2005). Available as MP3 download.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Arthur Allen, Daily Meditations 9 (detail), 2022, photograph, France, used with permission. Katrina Lillian Sorrentino, Entelechy 8 (detail), 2022, photograph, Spain, used with permission. Belinda Rain, Frost (detail), 1972, California, public domain. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image inspiration: We pause to appreciate the seemingly insignificant and experience the awe of the simple and unexpected.

Story from Our Community:

When I make a mistake, I get angry at myself and then get frozen in my fear of making another mistake. I will reread this message daily to get past the perfection idea for myself and others. I treasure CAC every day as I read and reread the message. Blessings to the staff. You are my friends. —Diane L.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.


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