Just last week I was sitting at the kitchen table at my Nana and Grandad’s house when I heard my Grandad say something that really struck me. We were talking about his coin collection with the family when he said, “When a coin is flawed it actually increases in value. You want to find and keep the coins that have flaws, as they are most valuable.” I was shocked! There are billions of coins in the world, lots of them in perfect condition, and most of them nearly identical, yet the imperfect, visibly flawed coins are of the greatest value? It was at that moment, it hit me: what if we valued humans in the same manner that we value coins? It is our flaws that make us unique, that make us human. If it were not for our flaws, we would be just another coin in the money supply. So why don’t we value or celebrate them as greatly?
As author Sarah Vowell once said, “We are flawed creatures, all of us. Some of us think that means we should fix our flaws. But get rid of my flaws and there would be no one left.” Vowell emphasizes the point that if it were not for one’s flaws, they would simply be like a coin that goes through its life without any difference from the coins around it. The flawed aspects of ourselves make us all the more unique. You see, flaws have value. Their value is rooted in their ability to emphasize and show the unique humanity within each of us. We should not just value and love others in spite of their flaws, but rather, because of the very flaws that make each of us unique.
If you ask anyone in my family, they will tell you I am overly competitive to a fault. Almost every night when we are together, we play some type of game, whether it be cards or board games. And, without fail, almost every night I get angry and lose my temper like a little kid who is frustrated when the game doesn’t go their way (now let me be clear, I do say “almost” because I am getting better!). Then, later in the night when I come up to my family to apologize for the millionth time for the way I acted, they say, “Sam, of course we forgive you. We love you and know that competitiveness is part of what makes you, you!” They do not stop there; they then help me to channel this ‘flaw’ into something positive such as finding ways that I can help others and drive my intensity in a beneficial direction.
There are two key takeaways in this type of love. First, my family loves me because being overly competitive is part of what makes me, me. Their love for me is not just in spite of my competitiveness, but because of it. Second, they work to help channel this aspect of my character in a positive direction. Rather than telling me I am a bad person for being overly competitive, they acknowledge how that same trait can be utilized for the better.
This type of love needs to be implemented on a greater scale, for all of our society. All too often, we have people who are quick to criticize others for their faults and say, “oh, you need to change this or that about yourself!” I have been guilty of this far too many times. Rather than being quick to judge, as fellow, imperfect children of God, we should take a moment to appreciate and truly value what we might consider “flaws” in ourselves or others. That is because they are what make us unique as human beings.
Let me be clear, I am not making an excuse for others by saying, for example, if someone verbally abuses others to love them because they verbally abuse. Such behavior cannot be tolerated. I am speaking more so to the common characteristic traits that people generally believe are not positive, such as an overly competitive nature.
As Villanovans, we’re called to love, value, and serve each other and our communities. We can practice this appreciation as our summer break ends and the new school year approaches by taking the time to recognize and celebrate these “flaws” in each other and ourselves. To take it one step further, we can also work to realize that those same characteristics might be the traits that enable them to positively impact others.
By practicing this, who knows, maybe the people in our lives might start taking on a whole new degree of value, and we will finally see what the coin collectors have known all along –– flaws have value.