There are two different ways of viewing holiness. Most Christians seem to view holiness as a level of perfection that none of us can ever reach. Trying to reach this level of virtue can feel like trying to jump to the top of a huge building in one single leap. As a result, we either grind away at our faith journey, trying desperately to be perfect (and feeling bad about ourselves the whole time); or we end up just pretending, choosing the easy option of looking virtuous and hiding our faults.

The second view of holiness is much closer to the truth. Our spiritual development is just like our physical development. A child learns to walk by falling over (repeatedly). Once the child can walk, it learns to run by tripping over (repeatedly). The process is one of gradual development, and learning through failure.The child eventually becomes an adult because they learn from their mistakes.

The spiritual life is meant to be the same thing. The simple fact is that despite our best efforts we will fail and we will fall into sin. If we beat ourselves up each time we fail to reach perfection, then we will never advance. If we go through life simply grinding away at the same things and never take the time to look at our failures, then we will never grow. Our failures in the life of virtue are actually a blessing, because they reveal things to us that we would never be able to know otherwise. Each time we fail, we have an opportunity to grow deeper in our knowledge of our own weakness, and of God’s mercy.