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The necessity of fallibility

April 7th, 2011

Gen. George Patton, the famous World War II U.S. military general,  was said to have offered words of wisdom to others in his well-known quote that asked, “If man does his best, what else is there?” Patton’s words are something I think about quite often before going in to take a grueling exam.

While it may not have been worded exactly the same way, my parents used to say something like this when I would get bad anxiety over tests in high school.

Their words were just as reassuring during those years as Patton’s quote is today for me.

I can see the truth in the quote, but sometimes today’s standards have taken a toll on its reality.

I wonder if there’s truth in its meaning today when everyone is expected to go beyond the expectations to achieve certain goals.

In our 21st century, Miley Cyrus sang “Nobody’s Perfect;” Patton encouraged troops of young men to do their best in the 1940s. The words of both are inspiring and touching for those who hear them.

The problem is, we are motivated by these words yet we do not listen to them.

It has become incredibly easy to compare ourselves with one another in many ways, so we are constantly striving to be a class of flawless people.

In our perfectionist world, do we tolerate fallibility anymore?

It is clear to many John Carroll students that juggling coursework, a job and even service hours is incredibly demanding of our time.

Not only that, but we are expected to excel in each so that our resume is sheer perfection.

This puts a grueling amount of pressure on someone who can’t balance their time or becomes overwhelmed easily.  And if they give up, they’re just not cut out for success today.

In my American Christianity class a few weeks ago, we learned about the Vatican I Council of 1870, in which the Pope was decreed infallible in regard to faith and morals.  The pope could make no mistakes in these two regards.

The lecture got me thinking about this fallibility, how it is tied to the character of an individual, and its proximity to our lifestyles today.

Sadly, we are being raised to the same standard the pope is in terms of our lifestyle. Much like the pope, we have the entire world watching and comparing us to others who may be better.

The Holy Father may have the advantage of accomplishing this characteristic, but not everybody is going to be blessed with such luck.

It’s time we acknowledge this fact, and accept fallibility as not the antonym of perfection but as a part of life.

Mr. or Mrs. Impeccable may seem flawless to you, but they are most likely struggling with their own desire to be perfect. It is this idea that should be understood.

Each person we compare ourselves to or strive to reach their level of perfection is most likely in the same exact boat; we’re just too concerned about our own perfection to know it.

In a way, it’s a reassuring idea, but it doesn’t take away from the reality that perfection is still something that is unachievable.

We won’t understand this until we actually believe in the words of Patton and accept that our best is enough.