Art of Craft ~ brews and reviews
By Greg Richardson

One of the reasons I pay attention to craft beer and spiritual life is how they shape my understanding of perfection.

How we understand perfection is important for us.

I have been encouraged to believe in the power of perfection for longer than I can remember. It is better to be right than to be wrong, so why would we not want to be right all the time?

Being right, being perfect can take over our intellectual and emotional lives. Perfection can be so significant to us we lie awake at night with anxiety about not being perfect. We start to believe we need to be perfect to earn what we want in life. Our expectations of perfection seem to be the threshold to a perfect life. It can be nearly impossible for us to accept anything other than perfection.

We may become perfectionists, and our perfectionism carries a high price.

Nothing is ever really acceptable when we practice perfectionism. We are constantly evaluating ourselves and other people against an impossible standard. Nothing is ever as perfect as we require it to be. We set ourselves, and everyone else, up to fail.

Perfectionism, worshiping the ideal of never making a mistake, robs us of the joy of life. We lose the valuable experience of learning by making our mistakes. It becomes harder and harder to laugh at ourselves and the situations in which we find ourselves. Perfectionism steals our perspective and our joy.

We spend all our energy convincing ourselves we are perfect.

Some of us feel responsible to go beyond perfection.

Many of us believe everything, and everyone, depends on us. We need to be strong, we need to be wise, we need to be right, no matter what we face. Without us, nothing works the way it is supposed to work.

Some of us believe our perfection is essential to whatever we do.

The future of organizations, families, other people, ourselves seems to rest on us going beyond perfect. There appears to be no margin for error, no room to relax. We feel we need to do everything all the time or things will fall apart.

It can be a terrible burden to feel we need to go beyond perfect. The people who approach life this way often feel responsible for protecting other people from their own imperfections. They experience the pressure of constantly being threatened, tested, needed. Their lives are filled with stress. It is almost impossible for them to find rest.

People who feel responsible to go beyond perfect are afraid to disappoint the people who love them. They believe that the worst could happen because of something they do or fail to do. Their lives are filled with fear of failing to meet expectations.

The highest expectations they face come from themselves.

Feeling a need always to be perfect is a vicious cycle. Our expecting ourselves to be perfect, or more than perfect, is like an addiction. We find ourselves willing to do more and more to obtain our perfection fix.

It can be a long, painful road out of perfectionism. We begin to spend our lives for the perfect friends, the perfect mate, the perfect car, the perfect house.

Some people believe spiritual life demands we be perfect, or exploring craft beer is a search for the perfect taste.

For many of us, the first step away from perfectionism is beginning to appreciate our own imperfection.

I pay attention to both spiritual life and craft beer because they help me on my path away from being a perfectionist. They encourage me to discover who I actually am, not a shallow perception based on a need to appear perfect.

I do not necessarily advertise my own imperfections, or those of other people. For me, spiritual life has more to do with accepting ourselves, and others, as we are than with being perfect.

Spiritual life is remarkably realistic. Our expectations and our concealing just get in the way of real spiritual life. We cannot be our truest selves when we are trying to hide. We are not able to learn and grow when we are trying to conceal our imperfections.

For the people who inspire me, perfection is not enough. They practice recognizing and admitting they are not perfect in specific ways. Some people are able to appreciate and even celebrate their own imperfections, and those of others. We come to see expecting ourselves to be perfect is a form of spiritual death, not spiritual life.

While each of us has our own ideas about what it means to be perfect, there is a similarity to them. Much of the beautiful variety and diversity of life comes from our own personal imperfections. We learn ever deeper lessons as we grow in appreciating our imperfections and those of others.

Fortunately, spiritual life does not expect us to be perfect. It draws us into its rhythm and balance, revealing us to ourselves as we are.

For me, craft beer and craft brewing work a lot like spiritual life. The brewers who inspire me are not merely repeating the same steps again and again, trying to produce the same beers.

Brewing, and tasting, great craft beer is an exploration, a way of trying new combinations and new approaches to learn what we might produce.

There is no such thing as the perfect craft beer. I might not enjoy everything I discover as I explore new beers, but I appreciate the creativity and new lessons each beer teaches me.

Join me this month in exploring new, imperfect beers.

Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor in Pasadena, California. He is passionate about craft brewing, listening, and monks and monastic life. Greg has served as an assistant district attorney and an associate university professor. Greg’s website is and he is on Twitter @StrategicMonk. You can email Greg at, and he writes a blog for the Contemplative channel on

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