Photo credit: Shewanda Riley

 “Perfect is boring.  Be imperfectly you.” When I saw this phrase on t-shirt over the Christmas holiday a few years ago, I could not resist it.   I had to buy it and not just because it was on sale. The underlying message of the shirt that imperfections were what made us more interesting (and unique) seemed to make a lot of sense to me at the time.  It wasn’t until recently that I realized that the shirt was also an interesting reminder about graciously handling the imperfections of ourselves and others.   

One of the areas of personal spiritual growth that God continues to challenge me is regarding how to respond to my imperfections as well as what I perceive as the others. For example, how do you take a more gracious approach when looking at imperfections? As a college English professor, I deal with this question often when grading papers. Over the years, I’ve worked very hard at finding ways to offer constructive criticism without completely crushing the esteem of students.   It is not easy because sometimes I struggle to find a few good things in a paper where there may be 15 other things done ineffectively.  Sometimes it works and sometimes I totally fail at it…. but I keep trying to figure out a way to make students see those things that others may label as “wrong” as valuable opportunities for growth.   

2 Timothy 2:20-21, (MSG) says “In a well-furnished kitchen there are not only crystal goblets and silver platters, but waste cans and compost buckets – some containers used to serve fine meals, others to take out the garbage. Become the kind of container God can use to present any and every kind of gift to his guests for their blessing.”  This scripture could be seen as a reminder that people who we perceive as having less value may actually have the most value. For example, after a fine meal, which is more valuable: the goblet that was used to drink out of or the trash can that was used to take out the trash? At the end of the meal, some would say that it is the trashcan that has more value because it helps keep the kitchen clean. 

Maybe we should try to think of deficiencies in others like imperfections in gemstones.  According to the website,, the value of certain gemstones increases because of internal imperfections or inclusions in the gemstone. For example, rubies and sapphires that have certain internal inclusions are seen as more unique and considered much more valuable than those that are man-made and seemingly perfect. So, instead of judging someone for what they may have done, good, bad, criminal or otherwise, we should choose to see those life experiences as what makes them graciously unique. By doing this, it may be easier for us to see that through God’s grace the value of others is actually increased by what they experienced (which may look like an imperfection) but is actually an example of how valuable they are because of what they  survived.  

Shewanda Riley is a Fort Worth, Texas based author of “Love Hangover: Moving from Pain to Purpose After a Relationship Ends” and “Writing to the Beat of God’s Heart: A Book of Prayers for Writers.”   Email her at or follow her on Twitter @shewanda.