Nobody’s perfect. Except those who are.
The end of the semester always brings a new set of challenges into the lives of students: final tests, last classes, closing presentations. It’s the end of an era (kind of), and with it comes changes. Some people move on to jobs, other people take time off, but the road to get there is paved with all the assignments that you’ve done over the past school year. And as with all school duties, it’s often filled with pressure.
Recently I’ve been watching Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto, and as a Senior in high school the story hits some key feels for me. For those of you who haven’t started it yet (shame on you!), the story revolves around a typical Japanese high school, and specifically centers around the life of a not-so-typical Japanese student.
Sakamoto is the ideal student. Smart, stylish, athletic. He’s the type of guy that you don’t double-date with because he’ll unintentionally steal all the attention. The teachers love him, the girls adore him, and the guys both envy and admire him. Sakamoto seems to be almost an academic and emotional equivalent to Saitama, the hero of One-Punch Man: where Saitama has unyielding strength, Sakamoto has unyielding personal skill. Both represent an ideal perfection that no one can measure up to, and yet they retain human characteristics.
Except his sitting skills are max level.
The world seems to have an obsession with self-motivation and perfection. We hear mantras like “practice makes perfect” and “perfection is a state of mind”; we are pushed at home, at school, and at the workplace to better than the best we can be. Our performance in the academic and social circles are evaluated and critiqued by our social norms, and we’re all given grades according to how we measure up to those standards: “she’s really good-looking”, “his muscles are amazing”, “this girl’s story is the bomb”. We’re all pushed towards perfection, this ideal of ideals, this just-out-of-reach state of being where we have everything figured out.
The problem with ideals, though, is that they’re just that. Ideals.
No one is perfect. No one can be perfect. As humans, we simply are unable to always make the right decision. It’s impossible. We can never know all of the factors or understand all of the motivation or grasp all of the intricacies that make up our daily lives and the interactions that happen within our lives. Ideals are great to strive towards because they motivate us to do better and to be the best that we can be. But if the pursuit of the ideal becomes the central focus, rather than what the ideal itself represents, we have a problem.
When we burn out in the last weeks of school due to overstudying, when we fall into a depression over a low grade, when we hate ourselves for breaking the promises we’ve made to ourselves over and over, we exhibit a devotion not to what we should be, but what we think we should be. But in doing so, we miss the entire point of the ideal we were aiming for.
This is a big struggle that I think a lot of Christians face, myself included. It’s easy to look at Christ’s perfect example in the Bible, and then to look at my own struggles and to think I’ll never be able to live that holy. I’m always failing. How can I be a Christian if I’m this weak?
And yet, that’s the essence of Christianity.
To be a Christian is similar to being a student. A student doesn’t attend class because he has everything figured out, but because he knows that he doesn’t know anything about the subject he wants to study, and he hopes to learn all that he can. Sure, he’ll make mistakes, maybe fail a test or two along the way, but in the end he’ll be equipped to go out and use the skills he learned from his teacher to solve real-world problems.
If all the student does is measure his progress along the way by his teacher’s level of skill, he’ll continually be discouraged because he isn’t at that level. And depending on the subject, he might never be. In the same way, we as Christians will never be able to attain Christ’s level of perfection and holiness. But rather than walking away from His teachings because we don’t feel like we can live up to them, it is our duty to take what we learn and to use it to pass the everyday quizzes and tests that life throws us.
No one can be a Sakamoto. We aren’t perfect, and we never will be. But God promises us that His power is “perfected in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9): our shortcomings and failures only open the door wider for God to give us His strength and for us to rely more fully on Him. As the semester rolls to a close, I want to encourage all of you to take time to reflect on the grace that God has given you to make it this far. Despite how you feel about your grades or your future, know that God truly does love you, and His grace is more than sufficient to keep you going.