“Do not wish to be anything but what you are, and try to be that perfectly.” — St. Francis de Sales
When I look at the magnificence of the delicate monarch butterfly above and read the wisdom of one of my favorite great saints, my first reaction is: “Easy for you to say.” They’re already pretty close to perfect by any objective standards, so they’ve got some nerve implying that little old perpetually imperfect me can do the same. But they weren’t always perfect, were they?
That monarch started off as a little ugly caterpillar, inching its way around. Just by being itself, by allowing what God created to unfold before the world, beauty was borne from what appeared to be not all that beautiful, at least according to worldly standards.
And St. Francis? He wasn’t always so perfect. He was just another human being, striving to be what God called him to be. But he recognized — in a way that’s remarkably relevant to our modern times despite the fact that he lived in the 17th century — that if we try to be someone else’s version of perfect, it’s never going to work out for us.
So how to be yourself perfectly, especially when you recognize that yourself has a long, long way to go to get anywhere close to perfect. That’s a tough call. We want to change. We want to be what the world judges as perfect — beautiful, financially secure or maybe even rich, successful, happy, healthy. We want it all, but very few of us get it all. Even the ones who appear to have it all on the surface are usually lacking somewhere else. And some people have suffering beyond what any of us can imagine and yet still manage to see their life as perfect, or close to it.
I guess the place to start deep inside. Who do you believe you are? What do you want to be — not professionally but universally? When you look back at the end of your life, what do you want to see in your wake? I think that’s where we find the clues. And once we admit who and what we truly are, we can begin to accept it and perfect it, even if no one else thinks we’re so perfect.
We may never have the grandeur of that monarch butterfly, but if we allow ourselves to emerge just as God created us to be, we will eventually spread our wings and fly.