God Does Not Create Numbers

Perfection was hung on a cross 2,000 years ago.Mike Shannon, St. Louis Cardinals broadcaster.

We Americans, particularly women, are held in a sort of prison of perfection.  From all quarters of our lives,we are expected to strive for perfection: meet incredibly high – and arbitrary – standards of behavior and beauty set by Lord only knows who in order to be considered as beautiful or worthy of love.  At least that is the way many of of us feel.

Naturally, that is a bit of an exaggeration,  but sometimes it really does seem that way.

From the time we are born in the United States, we are compared to a set of numbers.  Birth weight and length are the main two on the first day, but APGAR scores are measured – Appearance, Pulse, Grimace,Activity, and Respiration – to be sure that a newborn is ready for the rigors of the world.

As life goes on, our growth progress is charted and compared against other children our own age.  We are considered to be of the such and such percentile when it comes to height and weight.  How and when our teeth come in is tracked.  What age we are when we walk is deemed important.

In our primary school years, we are tracked against a set of standards.  Do we cooperate?  Do we get frustrated?  Are we assertive enough?  Do we listen in class?  Early progress reports actually ask the questions.  Later on, we receive letter grades for our efforts.  A is perfect, and, according to all higher wisdom, what we should strive for.  Standardized tests are administered to track our progress against everyone else.  The higher the score, the better.

In high school, those letters are matched with numbers and averaged to give us a grade point average or GPA, an indicator of academic success regardless of the class load taken or the rigors of the system of study.  For those who are college bound, we take standardized tests to give college recruiters an idea of our aptitude in any one area.  Whether or not such information was taught in our schools is not the point.

Socially, we are judged, rightly or wrongly, by how we adhere to fashion standards, filling out clothing just right and coiffing in a particular style.  Our teeth are straightened to match the ideal of a beautiful smile.  We learn to be sufficiently snarky toward people not in the social set considered to be at the top.  Not accepting those who are different.

Once out of college and in a real job, every year our employers review our performance.  How well did we perform against the expectations laid out for us.  The grades are not letters, sometimes are numbers and always include the words “needs improvement.”  Whether or not help is available to achieve this improvement is rarely mentioned.  At least not in the reviews.

We are encouraged to see a physician every year as our physical condition is tracked: height and weight which are then ratioed and compared against an “ideal” body mass index or BMI which famously does not take into account body type.  Doesn’t seem to matter.  A lot of us are too short for our weight.

In all of this, we are trained to think of ourselves in terms of numbers.  How are we doing against what is considered the ideal?  We are judged against that.  Not how we treat our family and friends.  Not how we respectfully disagree with others without insulting them.  Not how we give of our time and talents to help others.  We Americans are a social security number with a height and weight that might get a 2 on a scale of getting along with others in the workplace.

It’s enough to make a person really depressed.  Especially women who take criticism to heart and internalize it.

It takes a while to accept, but there is no such thing as human perfection.  Christ and His Mother are our only known examples – and that may well have been simply perfection of the soul.  None of us are perfect. None of us ever will be.  Even a baseball pitcher needs the other eight people on the field for a perfect game.

As God creates us in His image, and not physically or academically perfect, He tells us that it is acceptable to be human.  It is acceptable to fail.  It is acceptable to be who we are and not apologize for it.

None of us are just a number in God’s eyes.

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