How can you possibly expect to remain always in the same state of virtue when the angels in heaven and the first man in paradise failed to do so? (The Imitation of Christ)
Speaking as a recovering perfectionist (if there can be such a thing; sometimes I wonder) this passage from the Imitation is a great reminder for those times when I am kicking myself in the pants for some self-perceived failing. Countless angels fell from virtue without the same handicaps that I suffer; Adam and Eve, blessed with the help of God’s grace, nevertheless willfully chose to disobey God.
I am no better than any of these. My circumstances are certainly no better than theirs were. On the contrary I suffer from a variety of infirmities (original sin not the least of the them) which make it a virtual miracle when I do remain in a state of virtue. Why then am I so hard on myself? Why do I have absurdly unrealistic expectations for myself, when I know (in principle at least) that I just am going to stumble from time to time? All I can say is, “Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief.” All I can pray is, “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner!” I need His grace every moment. I am not perfect; if anything, I am perfectly broken. I need the humility to admit to my own frailties while not excusing them. I need to be as patient with my flaws as I try to be with others’. I need the mercy and grace of God through Jesus Christ; thank God for the Bread of Heaven by which I am saved.