Kent Hoffman

Pretend for a moment that everyone on the planet has this one simple fact in common: we all have exactly twelve personality flaws. Not that these flaws are the same for everyone. Many people have similar configurations fitting into patterns, but as it turns out, we’re all somehow alike and yet utterly unique in how messed up we actually are.

Now pretend that someone came along and told you that having these flaws isn’t actually a problem . . . unless you also have „the thirteenth personality flaw” – the one that makes the other twelve almost impossible to deal with. What’s this thirteenth flaw? The belief that you shouldn’t have the other twelve.

Somehow, to live on planet earth is to struggle and struggle mightily. Somehow this struggle is built into how we all live, without exception. Sure, some people seem to be skating by with less upset or a greater sense of advantage, but when you begin looking beneath the surface there is always an internal world that is far more difficult and painful than would have been imagined.

We all have flaws. Big flaws. Ugly flaws. Get us into trouble with those around us flaws. Consistently unhappy and always complaining about ourselves or those close to us flaws.

At the root of this struggle is the unrecognized thirteenth flaw, the one that tells us that we’re different, we’re bad, we’re inherently a problem and that „if only” we were a particular way (smarter, more attractive, wiser, more forgiving) or had different circumstances we’d finally be happy. The thirteenth flaw is always telling us we should have no flaws or problems or pain.

This is pure bullshit.

The thirteenth flaw always includes blame. This blame is always built on the illusion that there is „an answer” for pain or imperfection. Message: pain and imperfection do not belong in our lives. (See politicians and religious fanatics for sad examples.)

Fortunately, we always have choice: we can continue to hate our flaws – taking up most of our conscious life blaming ourselves or others. We can also pretend we have no flaws and blame the world around us for why we’re unhappy.

Or we can begin to recognize that we have real flaws and that the goal of life isn’t to hide them or make them go away. We can recognize that these flaws cause us (and others) pain and that the way out of this pain isn’t more blame.

The way out of this pain isn’t our continued belief in the thirteenth flaw. (I’m not a big fan of the concept of original sin. But if I were to agree with it, the validity of the concept would be found in recognizing that our problems don’t come from imperfection and mistakes but rather from the belief that imperfections and mistakes don’t belong in our lives. Original sin is the thirteen flaw.)

This much I know: when I fight my flaws (and those of the people around me) they turn to stone and sit on me with a weight I can almost not withstand. When I honor my flaws (and those of the people around me) – when I can bring kindness, acceptance, and tenderness to these flaws – they become part of a mysterious alchemy, transforming into a substance that is pliable and offers new possibility.

For real.

My twelve flaws then become a doorway to a new freedom rather than a wall that blocks hope and actual change. Twelve flaws are merely twelve flaws – signs of my being human, a „welcome to the freaking club” kind of human.

Without the added narrative that these flaws shouldn’t be here, so much that is fresh and alive is available in precisely the same place that had seemed impossible the moment before.

Kent Hoffman