The path we are called to walk is a paradoxical descent into embracing our weakness, imperfection, and vulnerability. For so long, we have been conditioned by the ideals of Western culture to relentlessly strive for perfection, success, control, and mastery over all situations. We exhaust ourselves climbing endless ladders, checking boxes, and grasping for an illusion of flawlessness that will never be attained.

But the wisdom figures and mystics reveal to us a different way – the way of descent, of subtraction, of becoming little. There will inevitably be circumstances, losses, failures, and humiliations that shatter our attempts at control and force us to confront the limitations of our current skillset and knowledge. In these moments, we must resist the urge to deny, numb, or distracting ourselves from the imperfection being revealed. Instead, we are summoned to release our white-knuckled grip and surrender to being led to the exposed edge of our private resources.

It is precisely at this edge where the path of descent begins to open up before us. The great paradox is that Divine strength, Divine life, is found in embracing our human weakness rather than transcending it. We are not called to self-hatred or abnegation, but to a posture of profound humility before the vastness of God and God’s creation. Like modern cosmology revealing billions of light years still not reaching the end of the universe, the only honest stance is one of littleness.

Saints like Francis of Assisi and Therese of Lisieux beckon us to find liberation in this “little way.” By shedding the delusions of perfection, supremacy, and heroic individuality, we discover a path of radical receiving, participant living, and inclusion of all things. The downward way leads us not to self-negation, but to integration – a loving embrace of our imperfections rather than constant striving to eradicate them.

For we realize that constantly trying to “fix” ourselves and others is rooted in an inability to accept imperfection, limitation, and vulnerability in ourselves. This temptation must be unmasked as the greatest barrier to love. True love does not seek to change or control, but to radically cherish and include just as we are. Our call is to become love’s artisans- practicing the ways of lovingly including our imperfections so that we can extend this same grace to others and to all creation.

The descent into our weakness is where we shed the crushing burden of fantasies about flawlessness. We realize that the only perfection available is our capacity to lovingly include our imperfections, rather than transcend them. The downward path is where we discover that we do not come to God through getting it all right, but through getting it wrong – releasing our desperate need for control so we can fall into the loving embrace of Grace.

So we commit ourselves to the humble journey where we encounter our mortality, face our deaths, and become unafraid of our finite human limits. For it is in these very limits that we learn to let go and open ourselves to the infinite Life beyond our imagining. The descent unmasks how all self-hatred, self-loathing, and inappropriate self-doubt flow from lies and cannot possibly be from the Source that creates and sustains us in perfect Love. We begin awakening to the truth that we are already perfectly loved in our imperfection.

Though the way down seems counterintuitive, even offensive to the frantic pursuits of our culture, we set our hearts to becoming holy fools and tricksters on this adventure of descent. For the deeper we go into the heart of our weakness, the more we discover connections to the strength and beauty within and around us. We commit ourselves to the path of subtraction, recognizing that we come to God not through our strivings and additions, but by letting go and allowing ourselves to be led by Love itself.

As we journey down the path of descent, we realize that the great liberation comes in no longer needing to be perfect. The obsessive drive to constantly fix, change, and improve ourselves and others is exposed as a fruitless effort rooted in our own inability to accept imperfection. When we cling to this delusion of perfection, we remain blind to the beauty and grace already present within the world and within ourselves.

So we commit ourselves to a new way of seeing – training our eyes to lovingly perceive and cherish the imperfect rather than seeking to eliminate it. The gray hairs, the wrinkles, the flaws become portals into the miracle of existence itself rather than blemishes to be erased. We learn to pause before the temptation to cut away or control the messy reality before us. Instead, we take a breath and remain present, allowing ourselves to be touched by the poignant beauty of the temporary, imperfect, and finite realm we inhabit.

For we realize that it is precisely through embracing our finite human imperfections that we learn to love the imperfect divine creation all around us. The humiliations and weaknesses we once ran from become the courseware for our transformation, the training ground for awakening to radical compassion. As we soften to including our own seeming defects and flaws, our heart cracks open to the whole world.

On this path, we discover that we do not come to love the unlovable by acquiring more knowledge or capabilities, but through the divestment of our own delusions of perfection. It is a path of subtraction, of shedding, of pruning, of consciously descending from our lofty ideals to become grounded in the humble truth of our shared imperfection and fragility. No longer puffed up with fantasies of somehow rising above our human condition, we find ourselves embraced by the beauty of our shared vulnerability.

In entering our own inner poverty, we become attuned to the holiness shimmering through all of creation – not despite, but precisely because of its imperfection. Our personal humiliations become the opening for being joined to the One who eternally exchanges the burden of illusion for the lightness of honest poverty. Our weakness unveils the secret wisdom that power is made perfect in infirmity, that the eternal life we crave is found in consciously undergoing little deaths each day.

So we surrender to the inescapable truth that the spiritual journey flows paradoxically from climbing endlessly upward to plunging into the depths of our finite human weakness. For it is only in leaving our ivory towers and descending into the ragged reality of our mutual imperfection that we encounter the limitless source of love waiting to embrace us. Only by letting go can we relinquish our attachments to receive the sustenance found in each unheroic, imperfect, present moment.

The downward path is not an abandoning of life, but an entry into its fullness – a return to our childlike capacity for wonder, play, and radical trust in receiving the gift of imperfect existence. Our descents lead us out of the frenzy of striving into the verdant garden of being, where we discover that the perfection we seeked was present all along in our ability to behold all things with the innocent eyes of compassion. On this fertile ground, we till the soil of our souls, pruning away self-hatred to bear new fruit – the abundant life found in participating in the great love holding all together in its sacred embrace.

As we surrender more fully to the downward path, we find ourselves undergoing an alchemical transformation. The descent does not lead to a negation of life, but to a profound reconnection with its sacred essence. We discover that letting go of our need for control and perfection is not an abandonment, but an opening to participate in the perpetual renewal and re-creation happening all around us.

Rather than gripping tightly to our self-constructed identities, we begin shedding inessential layers to unveil our true faces – the imprint of the Divine shimmering through our imperfect forms. The more we release attachments to images and ideals, the more we taste the freedom and buoyancy of surprise, delight, and ever-arising beauty.

On this path of descent, our obsession with climbing upward and out dissipates as our roots drink deeply from the waters of the present moment. We find ourselves not conquering life, but respectfully receiving and beholding it. Our agitated striving yields to a quieting presence that can discern the holiness shining through the immense simplicity of each circumscribed now.

This is the great paradox unveiled – that the way up is actually a path downward, returning us to our childlike capacity for radical receiving. We realize that the only perfection we can attain is not through our efforts and willpower, but through divesting from them entirely. In releasing our incessant need to perform and achieve, we discover an unburdened life where all is received as sheer gift from the open and unfolding hands of Love.

As we inhabit this space of openness, a profound transformation occurs. We become less fixated on sculpting reality according to our images and more attuned to beholding the holy art already happening within and around us. Our vision shifts from constantly assessing, critiquing, and seeking to “make things better” to one of reverent seeing. We begin perceiving the sacred painting already being expressed through the imperfect masterpiece of this world.

Our descents don’t lead us out of this world, but deeper into its inner radiance. In releasing our tight grip on these fleeting forms, we awaken to their depths as expressions of the eternal. Each wrinkle, each scar, each blemish becomes illumined as a brushstroke of the Divine Artist, rendering a beauty that can only be fathomed from the place of honest poverty and surrender.

This is the great journey we are called to – a path downward into the reality of our finite imperfection and weakness so that we might awaken to the limitless depths shining through it all. For it is only by becoming unafraid of our failures and humiliations that we enter the atmosphere of Grace where all things are made new. The way forward unveils itself not through our strivings, but in our willingness to descend with open eyes and hearts into the blessed imperfection of what is. This alone is the open meadow where we discover our true perfection – in lovingly beholding and receiving the beauty we have been frantically seeking all along.


The path of spiritual growth paradoxically involves descending into embracing our weakness, imperfection and vulnerability rather than endlessly striving for an unattainable perfection idealized by Western culture. There will always be limitations and situations we cannot control or fix with our current knowledge and abilities. These failures and humiliations force us to look beyond our own resources to a deeper source of strength. Saints like St. Francis and St. Therese taught the importance of the “little way” – embracing littleness, humility and imperfection before God. True perfection is not flawlessness, but having the ability to lovingly include our imperfections. Facing mortality through health crises can free us from fearing death and reorient us to learning the ways of authentic love. Self-hatred and excessive self-doubt are antithetical to this path – loving our imperfect selves is the necessary training ground for loving the imperfection in the world around us. The great temptation, especially for perfectionists, is constantly trying to change and “fix” imperfections rather than accepting and embracing them with compassion.


  1. There will always be situations in life that we cannot fix, control, explain, or understand with our current skills and knowledge. These failures and humiliations force us to look deeper for a real source of strength.
  2. The path of descent involves embracing weakness, imperfection, and vulnerability, which goes against the Western cultural ideal of always striving for perfection and success.
  3. Saints like St. Francis of Assisi and St. Thérèse of Lisieux taught the importance of the “little way” – embracing littleness and humility before God rather than seeking greatness.
  4. True perfection is not achieving flawlessness, but being able to include and love our own imperfections. This allows us to love others’ imperfections too.
  5. Facing mortality and health challenges can teach us not to fear death and to focus on what really matters – learning the ways of love.
  6. Self-hatred and excessive self-doubt are not from God. Loving our imperfect selves is the training ground for learning to love the imperfection in the world.
  7. The great temptation, especially for perfectionists, is always trying to change and “fix” imperfections rather than accepting and embracing them with love.

The core message is that the path of spiritual growth paradoxically involves descending into embracing our weakness, imperfection and vulnerability rather than endlessly striving for unattainable perfection.