The difference between no-one’s perfect…and no-one’s perfect

Originally published 4th November 2012
See details of the free ebook version of this post here

When talking about potential marital partners, something that you will often hear for instance from Christian books or resources, is that “no-one is perfect”. This is true, and something that most people will surely accept, whether or not they are Christians or have any religious faith whatsoever.

And yet absolutely everyone is covered by this maxim of “no-one is perfect”. Within the understanding that “no-one is perfect”, how do you sort out potentially excellent spouses from spouses who would be a lot less appropriate for you?

Firstly, I personally think that many people hide behind the concept that “no-one is perfect” as a kind of excuse for their behaviour, their pet weaknesses. As Christians we should all be striving for excellence, trying our best to be the very best we can be. Some people will do something wrong, then when challenged about it, simply say: “No-one’s perfect”, then just shrug their shoulders and carry on.
I have met people who will cheerfully admit failings in particular areas and almost cherish these failings. I believe that yes, as Christians it is good to be honest that we are not perfect, and yes, it can be refreshing when we admit to particular areas of weaknesses (where it is wise and prudent to make these admissions). However, we are not just supposed to admit the same failings endlessly, year in, year out; we are actually also supposed to deal with them so that we grow and mature into the image of Jesus more and more. Here I am talking about character defects, not things like physical conditions.
If you marry someone that is excellent to start off with, how can you tell that they are going to remain excellent – if they are “not perfect” to start with, how do you know that they are not going to grow a lot less perfect over the years, in terms of their character? That is, have you ever heard anyone ask: “What happened to the man I married?” or…. “Where is the girl I fell in love with?” …?
I personally think that life can hit with its stresses and disappointments and failures and temptations, and remaining excellent, and even growing through it all is not an accident, but is rather a matter of determined and prayerful choice.
This is the answer that I have come up with so far – this might yet be refined by future experiences. I think that the safest way to marry is to marry someone who is visibly striving forward with that determination. I realise that here I have merged two questions: “How to pick the best “imperfect” person” and “How to know your spouse is not going to change for the worse”. The reason I have merged these questions is because these issues are both crucial for choosing an excellent spouse and the issues actually merge into one another, because in my opinion they are answered by the same answer.
In a way I realise that it might seem quite presumptuous for me to categorically say: “This is what you must do!” especially as I have never actually been married myself. However this matter is ultimately not actually about marriage itself, but rather about human character, which is openly available for anyone to study.Something simple that I believe regarding marriage is that beyond the “cosmic” or (as I am a Christian, and this blog does have a Christian basis!) – “mysteriously sacred” interaction of hearts and minds and dreams that occurs within marriage, there are also some solidly practical issues of character, communication, discipline. Looking at these more practical aspects, then, to put it simply, the better the character, and the better the communication between the partners; the higher the maturity of the partners within the marriage; the better the marriage. Simple. I think it is better to base all those lovey-dovey, romantic, “they are my soul-mate” feelings on a solid basis of character, friendship and communication, than to expect character and communication to mysteriously emerge full-grown from that hazy mist of “feelings”.
So then the issue when considering that “no-one is perfect” is that sometimes you will see someone who seems quite good. But then you will notice quite an obvious character flaw. If no-one is perfect, is there any way to tell the difference between character flaws which indicate that an otherwise excellent person is actually human, after all, and the character flaws of people who are less than excellent? That is, I have heard of situations, or sometimes instinctively felt them, where, despite knowing of some prominent character flaws, one spouse marries the other, thinking that “no-one is perfect” – only to find themselves in an increasingly unappealing marriage.
So then, this is the single answer that I believe answers both these questions. As I say, I believe that excellent character is a result of determined and informed personal choice. This is true if you are trying to find that person who is excellent now, and also if you are trying to find someone who will remain excellent and become better and better as your marriage progresses. I believe that a potential spouse has to choose to be excellent now. I also believe that any excellent candidate for marriage has to be aware of the huge potential of life to throw them off the path of holiness, purity, humility etc – and they have to be prepared for it, and determined to overcome it. It is a little like asking how you would know that your spouse will do their best to remain athletically fit throughout your marriage. The answer to this is that you would seek out a spouse that is aware of the challenges that different stages of life might pose in terms of exercise, and has a plan and a resolve to overcome them.
Overtaking?
Sometimes, if someone is aggressively pursuing excellence, even if they start off on a lower footing, as it were, compared to someone else, they might quickly overtake this other person, and zoom past, if that other person is not running as fast. For instance, if someone is standing still at a distance of say, two miles ahead, and someone else is running forward with all their might, it does not take much imagination to see that the runner would soon overtake the person standing still. This would remain true even if the person ahead started walking forward slowly…moderately…even quite briskly. So I believe it is with character. I believe that the single best thing that you can do for yourself is to marry someone who is committed to running as hard as they possibly can after character, maturity, holiness, purity…everything! As people, no matter how excellent we are at any given time, there will ALWAYS be plenty of room for tremendous growth.
Sometimes you will meet people who seem absolutely lovely – even perfect…but they are not striving, perhaps because they don’t think they need to strive. Please don’t marry these people – unless God specifically says otherwise. I think that you would be setting yourself up for a “What happened to the man I married?” scenario. Admittedly, it is possible for anyone to “wake-up” at any time during marriage, and suddenly resolve to start running. In this case, you could count yourself to have gotten lucky. However, I personally do not want to have to get lucky within marriage. Admittedly you could also pray. In marriage you should be praying for your spouse anyway. I know I would rather be praying prayers of gratitude and joy, endlessly thanking God for my amazing man: “So worth the wait God! I can’t believe how much You love me Father!”, praying that God would continue empowering him to be a better and better man (which equates to a better and better husband!) This to me would be greatly preferable to praying prayers of semi-resentment: “Father, please give me the patience to wait… but Father please wake him up…and soon.”
On the other hand you could meet someone who is clearly a lot less perfect…and is also not appreciably striving after Christ-like character. DEFINITELY don’t marry these people (unless again God says otherwise). I think that what you would be likely to end up with is a marriage that is difficult from the outset; you would not even have to wait for years or even months for their character to deteriorate.

I think that this is what many people end up with, and I believe that this is why many people complain about their spouses from the very beginning. I always wonder how people can enter into these kinds of marriages with their eyes open. Once again, of course these spouses can “wake up”, and you can pray.

I think that depending on what kind of spouse you marry you might get to know different Bible verses very well: “For with God, nothing shall be impossible!” Luke 1v37 – this might be for someone who has to pray a little harder, shall we say!

Or you could find yourself spontaneously, joyfully erupting into: “I will bless the LORD at all times, His praise shall always be on my lips!” – Psalm 34v1 – possibly reflecting a happier marital experience… – which one would you prefer to have as the verse that most honestly reflects your own experience?

A further alternative: you might meet someone who is clearly striving and running after character etc as fast as they can….but whose level of character, maturity or discipline is not quite developed enough for marriage – that is, you meet the person from the analogy above who is 2 miles behind. I personally think that ideally, you should wait to know someone for a full two years to fully assess their character, see how they are striving etc before considering them romantically. This will hopefully also give you an idea of how consistent they are in their striving, their faith generally. If after two years it is clear that yes they are striving, but no, they are not quite there yet, then I would start praying seriously, but refrain from anything that resembled any kind of romantic relationship, perhaps try to build a wise, holy, cautious friendship.
“But Tosin, I feel as if I would love to strive more after Christ, but I just need a spouse to encourage me…someone to hold my hand!” Undoubtedly, people like this exist, and we are all surely influenced by those around us. I would personally prefer to find someone who is already “on fire”, but who knows, perhaps they may have caught that fire from someone else? I guess this is where the two years thing comes in – how far have they come in the time you have known them? Do they look as if they are eager to push through, but just don’t know how to do it? And then also you will need to pray and pray (and pray and pray and fast and pray further – can’t pray too much!) as with any potential spouse.

I should also state that this is of course not an exact science – anyone who seems to be excellent and seems to be striving can also change for the worse during marriage.

Above all of this, and all my blog posts, or any blog posts, any advice etc – prayer and the teachings of the Bible must come first and foremost. There might be a potential spouse who appears to be excellent to start with, and is correctly striving as they should be – but God still says “no”, or somehow God Himself seems to be shutting the door after much prayer (like if for instance Mr Potential Husband got married. I would take that as a divine sign – or at least, that is how I chose to interpret it when it did actually happen to me – although to be fair, the man in question was not actually a Christian!)

On the other hand, there might be someone who is not quite as advanced in maturity, or striving quite as hard as you would have preferred, and yet the more you pray, the more you realise that God is definitely saying: “He’s the one!” (This has never happened to me, so I can’t honestly say what it feels like). Either way, God definitely knows best. The thoughts in this post are just meant to be a helpful general guide.

So the single best approach I can find to the solution of whom to marry, is to seek out someone who is striving the hardest to be like Jesus. Personally I want to hear the passionate exclamations torn from the depths of his soul, I want to see the exertion on his face, when he declares that his utter determination is to live for God. I also want to hear where he’s been in his faith, what he has experienced or overcome, so I can evaluate for myself – are his proclamations about faith and living for God simply good, correct Christian theory, or have they genuinely been born out of the crucible of desperate personal experience? I’ll leave you to judge which one would be better…! 😉
I also need to see the fruit of his supposed strivings. That is, surely some aspects of my life will clearly demonstrate that I strive after God as hard as I say I do, and that I did not start this striving yesterday. This will likely be the same for everyone. (That said, however, we have to be careful to not equate “visible good works” with “a truly Christ-centred heart”.)

Bible Verses:
1 Corinthians 9:24:
24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.

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