Idealism is wonderful and certainly has a place. It is great to be inspired, to be aware of what’s possible, and to aspire for greater things.
Idealism can also be dangerous when it is misunderstood and instead used for judgement of one’s self or others for not being better, as I have encountered. Some people who take their spiritual journey very seriously can fall prey to this misunderstanding. They can be very well meaning and earnest. Their desire and aspirations to be the best they can be are lovely and healthy. But their tendency to be judgemental of themselves and others is toxic. They do not realize that along with the lovely idealism, the greatest spiritual attribute of all is acceptance. Acceptance and compassion for ourselves, others, and our world with all their imperfections, is truly what gives rise to peace within us and amongst us.
The sooner one comes to truly realize and accept that there is no perfection in humanity or in this world, the sooner one starts to experience a peace that comes with acceptance of reality. No human will ever be perfect, and our world will never be perfect. Yet with all these imperfections, we can truly accept ourselves, others, and the world. We don’t mean a resignation, but a true loving acceptance, with compassion for all the limitations and suffering. It is a soft, warm, embracing energy. After all, it is said that we “like because”, and we “love in spite of”. There is something beautiful, profound, and spiritual about loving in spite of dark and ugly parts and limitations. It allows us to feel safe to be accepted and loved just as we are, with all our limitations. This, paradoxically, allows us to take risks, to grow, and be our best. Over time, as we journey and grow, our best can become better and better. In contrast, someone who has the habit of judging himself is going to inadvertently impair his performance because of the negative effect of the judgement, only giving the judgement habit more fuel. So as well as being painful, it is counter-productive, not achieving what it is aimed at.
Of course there are actions which are not consistent with our values and are hurtful. We can separate these from the individual, judging the action while having compassion for the individual, who behaved badly out of ignorance or feeling badly.
A good thing about our perpetual state of imperfection is that our journey of growth and learnings can continue as long as we live. It would be rather boring after we achieved perfection, if such as thing were possible.
Likewise, we enjoy much more peace when we accept that in life we win some and we lose some, we are sometimes right and sometimes wrong, we have gains and losses, births and deaths, and there is MUCH that is beyond our control. When we trust that we are loved as we are, and that we live in a benevolent universe that is full of goodness despite all its misery and horror, it is much easier to accept reality. Things not going “our way” have less capacity to upset us. It is much easier to be happy and at peace.
Idealism and acceptance are both lovely values that can co-exist beautifully. We constantly accept and honor ourselves as we are with compassion for our limitations. At the same time we don’t lose sight of possibilities for our future, nor do we lose sight of our unwounded true nature. The idealism is not used as a whip to judge us, but rather as a source of inspiration and motivation towards what is possible and what we prefer. With others, we accept them with compassion, and see beyond their negative actions to the core of who they are. Everything is still evolving: us, others, and our world. Give them a chance.