Looking at human beings, and noticing our imperfections, is like looking at a painting by Rembrandt or Van Gough, and thinking, “this is rough — shouldn’t the brush work be smoother than that?”

What seems to be imperfection is really the touch of the Artist

It is the touch of our Creator. We are perfect in our humanity.

Here is one example: parenting.

‘Perfect’ parents are actually not the best parents; to be perfect as a parent can be quite harmful for children.

The children of ‘perfect’ parents — parents who are always calm, always right, who never make mistakes, who always do the right thing — often suffer terribly! Many of these kids end up with the worst psychological problems, as drug addicts or criminals.

We all know this is true: the children of pastors, ministers and the best Christians are much more likely to go wrong in life than other kids. It’s one of the great mysteries of life.

One family I knew — of wonderful Christians — had a son who became a teenage arsonist! And the son of a minister was one of the worst kids in our High School.

But the reason is so simple.

My eldest daughter has experienced a very imperfect father. He makes lots of mistakes, he is inconsistent, he gets angry, he gets sad, he is unreasonable, stubborn and stupid; he tries and he fails; he has to apologise a lot.

However, because of her father’s imperfections, she is developing a wonderful character.

She is finding goodness in herself. She is learning to love and forgive an imperfect man.

And she knows, in her heart, that perfection is not required or expected of her. She will model herself on this experience; and by loving, accepting and forgiving her father’s imperfections, she will learn to love, accept and forgive herself.

If her father was a perfect parent, she would feel intense pressure to live up to those standards — to be perfect herself — which of course is impossible.

My daughter might either try and meet those impossible standards, and could end up unhappy and filled with feelings of unworthiness, or (more likely, knowing her) she would decide to create her own standards — ones that she could meet — and choose an opposite life, perhaps one that would be damaging to her.

What we think of as perfection is not the best way to be, and not what God wants us to be. To be human, and no more than that, is true perfection.

It sounds crazy, but it’s true!

The way to know God is not to seek perfection, but to seek to be more human. That is one of my philosophies.

It’s not an original philosophy. This is ‘European Romanticism’: the philosophy of William Blake, Beethoven, Dostoyevski and others.