The virtues of flaws

Many, almost all of us, tend to be perfectionists. This causes us to secretly or openly hate our own flaws and shadows. We hide them, deny them or cover them up with apologies. No matter how much we silence their existence and recognition, we do not stop self-criticising ourselves to such an extent that this intra-criticism becomes excessive and hurts us unbearably. We are left exhausted by the conviction that we will never be able to shake off its curse.

Although this is a general tendency, there are also those who know how to make the most of their faults and shortcomings. History provides us with countless people who can prove it with deeds. A very shy girl, for whom it was an agonising problem to have friends and socialise with them, to go and buy the newspaper or greet the neighbours in the lift…, joined the book club and began to learn music at the conservatory. This opened up contacts and friendships for him. Her damned insecurity also forced her to work hard. But she was motivated. The phrase that was repeated most often was: “I bet you can’t”; and, of course, she could. Competing with oneself works real miracles.

According to a Chinese proverb, when God wants to send disasters upon humans, he fills them with virtues to see how they survive them. On the other hand, when he wants to bless them, he endows them with defects. Let us not be gullible: Saints have never been “saintly”. There are countless examples along these lines: The Curé of Ars, despite his intellectual mediocrity, became a great priest and counsellor. Father Claret, short and not good-looking to the point of being complex, was a tireless popular missionary. St. Alphonsus Liguori was a person of very bad temper which he managed to subdue. St. Augustine had many weaknesses and was a great sinner before his conversion. St. Therese of the Child Jesus was stubborn to a fault, but she rose. The list is endless. Whoever does not want to see defects, can start going to the desert.

This gives me to understand that, not infrequently, defects are as useful or even more useful than virtues. Someone full of them rests on his laurels and achieves nothing. On the other hand, others with a thousand impediments rebel against them and almost always end up winning the game. St. Paul said that “for those who love God everything works for their good” (Rom 8:28). If we exclude Christ, every man or woman has a good little mountain of faults. But, according to Bossuet, “the defect that most prevents men from progressing is not realising what they are capable of”. Fortunately, there are people who have been able to make the most of their own limits and shortcomings. They show us that we have more soul than we suspect. Therefore, I recommend that we should be very devoted to the shortcomings of the saints.


Juan Carlos cmf

(PHOTO: Ulrike Leone)


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