There’s a line in Star Wars that I’ve never liked. Yoda looks at Luke and says “Do or do not. There is no try.” It wasn’t until now that I understand why that line has always rubbed me wrong. Recent events in my own life have challenged me and shown me the difference between effort and success.
You see, doing is an ideal. It is this perfect world where everything works out and anything you set your mind to, you achieve. But the truth is that we can’t be perfect in this world. All we can do is try. And no matter what society says, that is enough.
Sunday, I watched something both incredibly painful and incredibly beautiful. A priest, ill with ALS, concelebrating Mass. His speech was mumbled and his voice quiet as he recited the words of consecration with the celebrant. He did what he could, small and imperfect as it was. But he offered all he could. In a way, he didn’t succeed. He simply couldn’t form the words perfectly. But he did what he could.
When you try, really try, you put in your best effort. You give your all and persevere. While that doesn’t always get us success, trying is good. It means we haven’t given up. It means we refuse to be mediocre. It means we want to be the best version of ourselves.
We are constantly told that our success is what defines us. Whether we lose the 5 pounds, or pass the test, or find that perfect man—that is what matters. While those things can be important, they are not the ultimate goal of our lives. Trying and persevering despite challenges takes more willpower, strength, and commitment than simply getting your way the first time. And that willpower forms virtue.
Take for example a test. You might give your best and get a 57 while someone else gives their best and gets a 95. But what matters is that you both give your best effort. And that next time you try again and persevere, in the hope of a better score. You might put in no effort and get 98. But that 98 means nothing if you don’t put anything into it.
So often we try to be perfect, and this is a good desire. A desire placed in our hearts for good reason. It means we never stop striving. However, we must acknowledge that we do make mistakes and own up to them. Because sometimes, whether through negligence, or forgetfulness, or nervousness, or willfull choice we don’t do our best. Only by admitting that we made a mistake can we move on. But we can not let the mistake define us either. Mistakes happen. We are not perfect, and can’t be in this life. All we can do is acknowledge the mistake, (repent/apologize if applicable), and try again.
They say the journey is the most important part. It’s not because it’s fun or pretty or easy. It’s because the journey is what makes us worthy of the destination. If achieveing anything in this life were easy, it wouldn’t be much of an achievement.
So Yoda, let me just say. We can’t always do; but we can try. And that is enough. We are enough.
*disclaimer: I am often a perfectionist, always scrupulous, and slowly getting better. These are simply my thoughts and ramblings.