Nowhere was the picture of the fact that all human beings are imperfect so clearly painted as at the scene in the Christian Bible where Jesus charged the Jews who were pressing to stone-to-death the adulterous woman, thus: “Let he who is without sin be the first to cast a stone.” True to the fact that none of them, oldest to youngest, was without sin, it wasn’t so long before the crowd melted down, leaving Jesus alone with the woman. And the rest, as they say, is story for another day. Come to think of it, if those set of holier-than-thou Jews knew so much about human imperfection, then how much more ought we who steer clear of everything “holy” on the ground that we’re not anything close to it; next to everyone don’t want to identify with ‘holy.’
Was there ever a perfect human being in the past? Is there one now? Will there ever be one in the future? Truth be told, as much as there was none in the past, there is none in the present, just as there will be none in the future. Such enviable biblical characters as David, Solomon and Peter were not. Was it not David, the man after God’s very own heart and psalmist par excellence, that not only coveted another’s wife but committed murder to keep his sin from going public? Of the wise Solomon, what was enlightened about marrying seven hundred wives and keeping three hundred concubines? What about Peter? He did not only deny Jesus three times but did deny him on one such occasion before a servant girl. Lest I forget, even Moses, the man who spoke with God face to face as a man would speak to a friend, didn’t make it to the Promised Land because of personality issues. Judas, one of those that wined and dined with Christ, sold out to greed.
Recent history has record such great names and seemingly larger-than-life personalities as Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton, Princess Diana, Barack Obama, etc. Even these ones were nothing close to perfect. Lincoln, for instance, was voted the greatest American citizen ever and the best of the so-far 45 presidents of America, including its grand founding father, George Washington. To say the least, Lincoln’s administration was as epic as his speeches were legendary. However, this same Lincoln couldn’t make it up to a good father. Yes, the man who had the admiration of the greatest nation on the planet and beyond was loathed by his very own son on the grounds that he was a remarkable absentee father. What about Bill Clinton? He was on the high way to joining the league of the greatest presidents in American history when his appetite for women betrayed him. Just a curious comment on Princess Diana. The woman who became a paragon of empathy, so much that she bagged the title “The People’s Princess” couldn’t keep up with her marriage and died in the infamous August 1997 Pont de l’Alma crash. Still true to those words, ‘no human being is perfect.’
Who are the ‘Who is Who’ of Nigeria, past and present, dead or alive? Not even one of the nationalists, the founding fathers of Nigeria, is anywhere close to impeccable. Of course, they all had their fair share of human imperfection. From Nnamdi Azikiwe through Ahmadu Bello to Obafemi Awolowo, the story is no different. In fact, the trio had a hand, in one way or the other, in sowing the apple of ethnic discord in Nigeria. It was the political rancor between Azikiwe and Awolowo in Lagos that blazed the trail for the indigenization of politics. More so, Nigeria’s First Republic failed under the watch of Azikiwe and Balewa – on the grounds of gross corruption.
It’s now my turn, and there’s no gainsaying that I’m nowhere close to perfection. True, I always strive to do good to others, improve myself in every way I can, especially through learning and living. But sometimes I feel a lot of weight on my shoulders, wondering if I can live up to people’s expectations of me. In all, I have realized that the more I try, the more the human being in me showcases itself. Funnily, the more I try, the more I make mistakes; the more I motion towards the light of perfection, the darker my shadows of imperfections become.
And so the fact of human imperfection got me wondering, and for which I went in search of answers. Then came Abraham Maslow to the rescue with these words: “There are no perfect human beings! Persons can be found who are good, very good indeed, in fact, great. There do in fact exist creators, seers, sages, saints, shakers, and movers…even if they are uncommon and do not come by the dozen. And yet these very same people can at times be boring, irritating, petulant, selfish, angry, or depressed. To avoid disillusionment with human nature, we must first give up our illusions about it.” This has made me realize that it is part and parcel of being a human being to be imperfect, and for which the one thing I neither expect from myself nor from other human beings is perfection. For this, too, I have equally come to the conviction that demanding perfection from a human being is one of the one thousand ways to be unjust.
Of course, we can always reach for excellence, which ranges from 70% to 100% in the university grading system, for instance. But perfection is strictly God’s business.