DEAR ALI: ‘Are Minor Imperfections Deal-Breakers?’
I don’t want to be too picky, but whenever I am getting to know someone new, I seem to always focus on their flaws and imperfections, which prevents me from going deep with anyone. This person I am getting to know now is super messy and disorganized and it really irks me. Is it legitimate for something so minor to be a deal-breaker? Or is it me that needs to be more accepting?
Great question. And you are so not alone. Whenever we get to know someone new, there will be minor imperfections that might drive us nuts. Maybe he or she is highly disorganized… perpetually late… afraid of being vulnerable… impatient… high strung… too controlling… obsessed with watching basketball… there is always something that starts to get under our skin after a while. Are these deal-breakers? Or are they things we need to learn to deal with?
Only you will be able to answer that question. But before you do, allow me to shed some light on the topic with help from Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend’s book Boundaries in Dating. They waste no time getting straight to the point, saying, “There is no Prince Charming that has it all together. So give up that fantasy.”
Blunt, yes. To the point, absolutely. But words that so many of us need to hear…over and over again…as we navigate our love boats through the strong currents of relational waters. It’s not always easy but if we can begin the process with a solid anchor to reality, it will steer us away from ending something wrongly or pre-maturely.
Ladies, this is the point where we may need to pause (like right now) and grieve the loss of whatever fantasy of a man we have conjured up in our hearts and minds (consciously or unconsciously) over the years. C’mon, let’s just get it out…and let it go.
Alright, now that that’s taken care of and we’ve accepted the reality that we are ALL flawed, imperfect, sinful human beings in perpetual need of God’s saving grace and love, we no longer need to evaluate another person on the basis of false expectations. Phew!
You’d be surprised. I’ve talked to many well-meaning, strong-believing women who break things off with a man because “he was too much of a slob” or he “didn’t read enough books” or he “chewed with his mouth open.” Unless we ourselves are perfect, we have no right to judge another person according to such a standard!
Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend say that rather than focusing on the imperfections themselves, the important thing to look out for in a person is how they see, perceive and respond to aspects of their own character and behavior. They advise singles to look for people “who have the ability to see when they have wronged you, to confess it, to care about how they hurt you, and to work hard not to continue in that pattern.” They list some of the following traits as evidence that a person is willing to work on their imperfections:
- A relationship with God
- Ability to see where on is wrong
- Ability to be honest
- Ability to see the effects of wrong on another person
- Ability to empathize with those effects and be truly sorry for the other person as opposed to just feeling guilty for themselves
- Motivation to repent and change
- Ability to sustain repentance and change
- Commitment to a path of growth, a system of growth, and the involvement of the other people in the growth process
- Ability to receive and utilize forgiveness
Good stuff. Really, the common thread here in all these traits is teachability. In other words, is someone willing to admit their wrongs and take steps to change? The Bible talks a lot about this, instructing us to imitate Christ’s humility:
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)
Dr. Townsend and Dr. Cloud see this as a “good sign” if someone exhibits humility and teachability from the start. But you might be wondering how to uncover whether teachability is present in a person during the dating phase, given that both parties are likely putting their ‘best foot forward.’ As one person said, “a lot of time goes into concealing rather than revealing in the dating phase.” While this might be true, there will inevitably be life situations that come up as you spend time with a person, such as family conflicts and crises, tiredness, sickness, stresses at work, to name a few and these are all situations in which a person’s true colors will come out.
Two people are never going to be perfect. There will be imperfections, flaws and sins that pop up as we go through life and grow in relationship with someone. We just have to decide if they are things we can tolerate over the long haul or not. And they will have to make the same choice about us. Preferences and toleration levels may vary from person to person, but one thing that remains true for everyone is this: when two people who desire to grow in Christ-likeness and are consciously seeking to imitate the humble nature of God Himself in their relationship, God’s blessing will be ever-present and His fruits ever-abundant!
In summary, its more about a person’s response to imperfection and the acknowledgment and handling of sin than a person’s actual flaws. We should look out for traits in a person that reflect Christ’s humility, teachability and empathy, while striving to be that person ourselves!
There is however, a line to draw. There are some traits and imperfections that no one should ever live with. Next week we’ll take a look at what the Bible says on this and will give some practical tips on how to steer clear of making unhealthy choices in this regard. Hope to see you again!