Are You Perfect? Probably not and that’s fine but do you want to be a better person? That’s Doable!


What’s perfect? Few things in life are except maybe the solution to a math problem. There is only one answer. The right one. 

Perfect is rigid and usually subjective. It implies that there is only one way to do something without faults or defects. How does that affect creativity if there’s no room to fail? What a crazy standard! Whether the design of a building, a dress, a work of art, a person’s looks, a meal, a guest, a friend, a dinner party, a student or child, a family gathering, holiday, the expectations are dizzying. And try as we do, we can come close but, in the end, if perfection is our goal, we will be disappointed. 

Just ask an actor who wants a perfect performance and knows that is unattainable. There is always something more to do to make it better. Is it ever good enough? Yes. Perfect. We don’t think so. 

What about us? We never tout ourselves as perfect or for that matter our parents or even our offspring. We have no perfect friends (but pretty terrific ones), never cook the perfect meal (though we’ve come close with desserts) or worn the perfect outfit, hardly, for those who know us and our lack of interest in being fashionistas. 

In any endeavor, we try hard to come close to doing what’s morally and ethically really good so we can be role models for others. This enables us to live with ourselves and leave a good legacy behind for our loved ones and our planet. 

So, a small book piqued our interest, How to be Perfect, especially since it was written by someone with a funny bone, Michael Schur. He started as a writer on Saturday Night Live and also worked on TV shows like “The Good Place,” “Parks and Recreation” and “The Office,” all favorites. We liked his premise about wondering why people do things and how they can do them better, more justly and more fairly, but still enjoy their own lives.   

As we read this book packed with ideas and questions, some situations came to mind. For Barbara, it was the recent fellow shopper at her grocery store, who kept removing green grapes from a bag to test them by eating a few. In the process, she touched so many that Barbara spoke up to her. “Could you please not touch all you’re not buying in case I decide to purchase the bag?” The woman was incensed, “Well, you can wash them.” Yuck, thought Barbara, with pictures spinning in her head of Covid-19 bacteria settling in so she might get a nasty case. She asked the grocer if he had any more bags in the back. 

Yes, it wasn’t a hanging offense but something most of us know not to do, though we may have done so a few times. Fess up. This also segues onto Schur’s premise that you need to be honest to start to be perfect. Unethical or certain questionable behaviors will also cloud the road to perfection if the goal is goodness. 

We pose one of our questions: If we give up red meat to lessen the impact of that food group on climate change, will that help our goodness meter rise? If we do without plastic straws and water bottles and raise it more will we be at the almost or near perfect mark? But then if we call out someone in an appropriate way—maybe berating them in public with others around—if Barbara had scolded the grape grabber within earshot of others, the equivalent of shaming, would her goodness number drop precipitously? 

When we try to be perfect there can be a price to pay. Schur concludes that there are limits on what’s required of us. He writes, “There is some amount of ‘selfishness that’s appropriate and even good for us to have, because without it we aren’t properly valuing our own lives.’” However, there is a caveat: we might also put into action what he terms moral exhaustion or trying to do the right thing all the time. Phew! He says that it’s okay to break rules occasionally as long as it’s not harmful to others. This is actually healthy for we are acknowledging to ourselves that nobody’s perfect for perfection is on a continuum. 

In a recent blog, we suggested a smile project to make others feel good and the world a bit better place. In another we gave suggestions on ways to cultivate a new friendship. In this blog, we’re dubbing our new project, “The Moral Meter” and suggesting ways we and others can raise our levels in our daily or at least weekly and monthly lives. 

Here’s our list of 10 “The Moral Meter” suggestions to get you thinking about what you do so you can climb higher on the perfection scale. Be sure to keep in mind that reaching the top isn’t the goal since that’s unattainable but moving up is certainly possible. 

  1. Don’t drop trash even when no one sees you do it —no candy wrappers thrown from a car window, a boat or on a hike, all times when you think nobody’s watching. At the same time, you get extra points for picking up others’ stuff such as a soda can left on the sidewalk or in a parking lot.
  2. Don’t break rules, even those you consider silly such as not sampling two pieces of cheese at the farmer’s market when the vendor says, “take one.” Or at least ask for another once you’ve had your freebie. That person is in business to earn money not feed you! And recycle correctly.
  3. Don’t hit a signpost when you’re driving and keep going. It’s not as bad as hitting an animal or a person obviously, but it’s not your property to destroy. Speak up and see if you can pay for the damage. No hit and run here.
  4. Don’t avoid payingwhether it’s sneaking someone into the subway, at a buffet line or movie theater. Again, businesses count on all the revenue.
  5. Don’t tell a lie (an occasional white lie to preserve someone’s feelings is different)whether it’s to change a doctor or dental appointment or avoid paying a fine. Confess the truth and deal with the consequences. Your honesty may be the ticket needed to get a pass and make a change.
  6. Don’t say you’re going to do something when you know you probably won’t—call someone to make a date, pretend the check is in the mail when you have no intention of paying when queried at least for now or offer to do something and then renege.
  7. Don’t speed or look at your phonewhen driving since you put yourself and others at risk.
  8. Don’t cheat on a test or worse a spouse, partner, friend,and if you do, share, apologize without any buts and don’t do it again. Not being a repeat offender goes a long way toward perfection, we think.
  9. Don’t take credit for something you didn’t do. Fragile ego? There are other things you can learn to boost it.
  10. Remember to use good manners to get closer to reaching the perfect you. This means no elbows on the table, to look at someone who’s talking, not to interrupt excessively, to ask questions of a person you’re conversing with instead of hogging the limelight, hold a door open and look behind to see if someone’s coming, not wiggle ahead in line, return phone calls and emails. You get the drift. 

Doing good doesn’t have to be stressful if you do the right thing. Here the focus has more to do with the spirit of goodness than perfection.


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