“for no one is suddenly made perfect.”
Venerable Bede

Discouragement is a primary even if oft unnoticed enemy of the good life. Frankly, I often see it; and experience it. People with high ideals and fond hopes, both in what they want for themselves and their loved ones, get discouraged. This undermines intentionality and focus. It sucks energy and deflates resolve.

Among diverse causes of discouragement, unreasonable expectations stand out. In this way, I think, we can be too hard on ourselves. We don’t take the long view. “Surely,” we think, “I should have made more progress” or “we should be beyond this.” Well, perhaps we should be further along. But at the same time, perhaps we have not reckoned that life, especially in its most important aspects, is characterized by organic growth. “No one is suddenly made perfect.”

Bede focuses on human growth in its most important form—the interior life of the soul, which “in its growth [is] not like the grass (which soon withers), but it rises up like the trees.”

Rising up like the trees! What a powerful, inspiring, and instructive image! Thus should be our life in its most essential aspects. Slow growth, season after season, year over year. Winds resisted and drought endured, days of sunshine and rejuvenating rains. And then there’s prunings and manurings.

Discouragement can come of forgetting that all these things are normal. This is how it works; it’s how it’s supposed to work… as for instance in marriage, or child-rearing, which are always long rows to hoe.

The word ‘perfect,’ from a Latin root, means ‘made all the way through.’ This is the way of nature, even and especially in its higher registers. Human children take years before they even start really to act from reason. Is it any wonder that some years later they might just be getting decent at it? Ditto in virtue formation, and friendship forging, and so on.

This is not an argument to settle for less and certainly not to wait. The way of nature is not to settle or wait. But it is a way of patience, and even long-suffering. To be patient is to be willing to endure sorrow and not be overcome by it. Human flourishing is the fruit of organic growth and intentional crafting, according to a masterful if arduous plan. We are crafting, and we are being crafted. Patience, and mercy, for self and others, are part of the plan.

Why? Because the end is that good. It calls for a long haul, and it’s worthy of it. Oh, so worthy. And when after great labor, a full human person is born, those tears of sorrow will show themselves the natural antecedent of the tears of joy. ~ ~ ~

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