Books can be an embarrassment. The ones we show on our shelves can reveal a great deal of who we are and subject us to the preconceived notions of others. I have several versions of the bible, for example. The New English, the Revised Standard, the New International, the King James and the New King James, the Moffatt translation, and so on and so forth. Fancy me a Christian? Why, you just might, if you saw my books.
But the truth is that I'm not. At least not any more. Onions have layers, Shrek tells us. Onions also make you cry as you peel them apart, and us people, in getting to know us, can cause the same reaction. It's conflicting and difficult to learn someone as you dive more deeply into them. We learn about others by their actions and their words and the books they have and by those who know them.
On the advice of a friend, I stayed up late to watch Bridget Jones' Diary. I'm in a movie mode lately... a sign of lots of thinking going on... and I'm buying books. These are both signs that I'm craving input as I'm trying to figure something out.
Bridget felt it was time to avoid being a spinster, and so she was off man-shopping. She found such a guy, but he was an absolute cad, though he was smooth and great in bed. Later, she found the right guy - the one who wanted her for exactly who she was. He knew her imperfections and spoke honestly to them - he saw them outright - but their presence had no impact on him. He wanted her just as she was. Although she didn't see that he was the right one until it was almost too late.
The reading material that we have lying about can cause such trouble. It certainly did for Bridget and she ran half-naked through the streets because of it. I have a copy of Dr. Laura's book, The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands. That book has caused me no less than eight arguments with women. How condescending the title, I hear from most of them. Or I hear that Laura is hideous. How can you stand her, they ask. But I like her. She's honest, which is the quality I admire most in people.
I also like the bible, despite its imperfections. Just as I don't agree with Laura on everything that she says, I also don't agree with the bible about everything that it says. But I feel that you would be hard-pressed to find a deeper book. A lot of wisdom in there. The same is true about Laura.
A great attractiveness about Bridget, I think, was that she didn't try much to hide her flaws. She knew that they would be exposed. She even kind of embraced them. Because perfection doesn't exist. I sometimes say things that I don't mean, or I say it wrong for the audience to whom I intended it. Or I say it at the wrong moment. No matter how much I try - and I do try very hard - my communication is probably fumbled in delivery as often as it succeeds. And I'll also hear things incorrectly from others for the same reasons and make assumptions about what they're saying.
Stephen Covey's "Seek to understand before you seek to be understood" is most appropriate here. Questions are a salvation. You know, it's hard to remember to ask the right questions in the midst of a conversation. Things happen so fast. I heard Laura address this one night on the air with a couple. As they got into bed, the husband made a comment. The wife got out of bed. He assumed that she was pissed, and so he reacted to that, when in fact, she got out of bed to ensure that their child was truly asleep so that they could talk. But instead, they got into a very long fight over a silly miscommunication. Had the husband asked why she got out of bed, the fight could have been averted. Had the wife commented what she was doing as she got up instead of saying nothing, the fight could have been averted.
Imperfection is beautiful when it's embraced. It makes us humble. It renders us soft in a difficult discussion and easy in a complicated relationship. Acknowledged imperfection allows us to laugh at ourselves, as Bridget often did. Being unafraid to see imperfection also makes forgiveness possible. It's indispensable, really. It encourages us to accept one another - just as we are.