In Order To Be Whole You Need To Be Broken

I interviewed a candidate last week for a clinical position.  He was fantastic; I mean really, he was great.  He was impeccably dressed with a pressed shirt and a tie that laid straight down the front barely moving the entire interview.  His hair was styled just so and he used his hands while he talked; not too much as to become overwhelming and not too little as though he was trying too hard to not be stiff.  No, it was the perfect amount that had me captivated by his expressive movements.  He was articulate and answered every question as though he knew it was going to be asked.  He had his Master’s degree and had nearly completed his PhD.

I asked him two final questions.  One, was to tell me about a challenge that he had faced and how he had overcome it, and two, how his family dynamics provided him with insight that would help him in his work.  He confidently replied that he had a wonderful family and could not dream of it being any better than it already was.  His parents were still married after 40 years, no small feat in this day and age, he was best friends with his brother, and they had a family dinner every Sunday evening.  As for challenges, he explained that he had been fortunate enough to have never experienced a challenging situation, which is why he wanted to work with youth at risk.  He was dedicated to helping people who had been dealt a bad hand have a smoother life.

After the interview, my colleague and I were discussing the applicants that we had screened so far.  “Mr. Perfect,” as she had coined our most recent interviewee, was a shoe in for the position she exclaimed.

“Did you hear his answers?  He is smart, professional, dedicated to helping others, and has never had anything bad happen to him; he’s practically a saint!  I can’t think of anyone more perfect for the position,” she said enthusiastically.  I, on the other hand, was not convinced.

On my drive home, I couldn’t stop thinking about Mr. Perfect.  Something wasn’t sitting well and I had a nagging feeling that he wasn’t right for the job. Then it struck me, he was perfect, and because he was perfect, he was also flawed.

Challenges in life provide us with an opportunity to find out how strong we are, and to realize that we have the fortitude to rise up, embrace success and accomplish our goals despite unforeseen hardships.  People love to say that difficult situations make you realize that you can overcome your fears and that you are stronger than you thought.   

However, challenges are also so much more than that.  Challenging situations, ones that leave you crying, scared, and confused, don’t just let you know how great you are, but they also open your eyes to how great you aren’t.  When we are so overcome with angst and uncertainty and we are afraid, upset, and so overwhelmed that it feels as though the walls of life are crumbling around us, we say things that hurt the ones we love the most, and we do things that we would be embarrassed to share with others.  Its times like these that we find out who we are, and who we are not.  Just as important as the successes, are the failures.  The successes reinforce our subconscious belief that we are as great as we have been told we are – as we think we are.  But the failures, they provide us with insight into who we are not, despite what we had previously believed.  

One of the most important elements of life is knowing who you are, understanding yourself and where you fit in the world.

An integral part of knowing who you are is being aware of your amazing capabilities, but equally essential is knowing your limitations.  No, Mr. Perfect wasn’t the right match for the job, because he wasn’t really perfect.  On the surface, he might look as though he has it all, and he may have accomplished great endeavors and reached awesome heights, but until he experiences disappointment, he is far too complete to be perfect.  We don’t ask for challenges in life, or to have tests that we don’t pass, but we must recognize that it’s those very trials and tribulations that help us to define who we are (and who we are not) so that we can live a life worth living.

The truth is that you can’t be whole until you’ve been broken; and the most perfect people you will ever meet are those that have not only risen to the top, but have also fallen to the bottom.  

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