Books That Shaped Our Lives

Cindy Carter, Dean of Degree Completion

The Spirituality of Imperfection: Storytelling and the Search for Meaning by Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham

There are holy and precious moments in life when I’ve been completely spell-bound by events, ideas, or simply the presence of others. My attention, in those moments, draws inward to reorganize how I see the world and my place in it. Reading The Spirituality of Imperfection was just such a noteworthy experience. It served as a loving mirror to my own imperfections, offering a feast, a bouquet, a landscape of beautiful alternatives to perfectionism.

As a lover of stories, I am intimately familiar with our shared human yearning for narratives, with the transformative power contained in each story experience, and with the beautiful context stories bring to all of my relationships. The words, “once upon a time,” fill me with deep delight. The words, “please tell me a story,” call upon my passions and promise the birth of something new in the telling. As a child of perfectionists, my genetic and environmental paths converged and forged a destiny that could be transformed only by the power of story.

Kurtz and Ketcham’s book, The Spirituality of Imperfection, draws upon Christian, Hebrew, Buddhist, Greek, and recovery tradition stories to warmly acknowledge our human desire for perfectionism. It goes on to characterize healthy imperfectionism and paints a gallery of pictures about how various faith traditions hold hands while traversing out of unhealthy perfectionist beliefs and practices. The authors take an additional step by tying stories about perfectionism to alcohol and chemical dependency traditions.

How do stories about perfectionism or imperfectionism work to transform the human heart? There is something about their mirroring effect that allows us to acknowledge our yearning to be known, open ourselves and find comfort in wholeness. The alternative is to struggle with maintaining a split between inevitable failures and the illusion of perfectionism. When someone tells us stories that reveal our own hearts, when they tell us our own stories, we come closest to experiencing God’s love, generosity and forgiveness.

The sentiments of The Spirituality of Imperfection live close to my heart.