Last week’s Here’s To Your Health concluded with Doctor B’s opinions, solution and treatment for the disease of chronic alcoholism. This week is the first in a series of articles from a book written by a South Bend professor. A few weeks ago, I was introduced to a gentleman named Glenn F. during a forum at Columbus, IN. The professor gave me a copy of, “The Higher Power of the Twelve Step Program,” and most graciously signed it. The next several weeks of Here’s To Your Health will be quoted from the professor’s book, about spirituality and theology, it was dedicated for a captain of the Jack, a nuclear fast attack submarine SSN-605. I decided to begin with what the professor wrote about perfectionists because their flaw is expecting perfection from everyone around them and a common thread among chronic alcoholics. On page 129 of the professor’s book he began with “The Myth of Perfection,” which he credited to Ralph P. from Indianapolis, who was one of the first Roman Catholic priest to get sober in AA.
Ralph began his “Myth of Perfection” with a quote from St. Augustine, the ancient African Saint who supplied so many of the basic ideas of the medieval Catholic Church, the Protestant Reformation, and Bill Wilson’s interpretations of the Twelve Step program: “Let us admit our imperfections so we can then begin to work towards perfection.”
St. Augustine spent a number of years after his conversion to Christianity trying to be perfect, and attempting to flee from all ordinary human emotion into a supernatural vision of the divine ground of being. When he was made bishop of a port city on the coast of Africa, he finally had to admit that people who crowded into his church every Sunday morning were simply never going to be perfect in that sense-and neither was he-and that trying to develop a spiritual life on that basis was not even relevant to the real everyday problems which both he and members of his congregation actually had to face.
St. Augustine bequeathed to all subsequent western Christianity the fundamental principle which Father Ralph puts in this form: “There ain’t nobody perfect in this world.”
“There ain’t nobody perfect in this world.” All of our lives we expected perfection, and when we again and again found instead imperfection, faults, failings, even serious ones, we became “disillusioned”—-which in reality was only a vicarious form of self-pity…
We first thought our parents were perfect, and when we found out they weren’t, that was frustration #1. Then we met the gal or guy of our dreams. And think we/us: Here is perfection. And then we married her or him and that was frustration #2. Then along came our children and without doubt they were perfect? Isn’t my child the most perfect who ever lived? And then the policeman brought their child home one day. Our child? Never! But it was our child and more frustration…but we held on to the mirage to the very last: We were perfect, and if you didn’t believe it, all you had to do was ask us.
The truth, no one is perfect…more proof can be found in the Scriptures. “If anybody among you says he is without sin, he is a liar and the truth is not in him which is a longer way of saying: There ain’t nobody perfect. To be continued.