Ideals are good. They are principles toward which we might reach. They help give shape to images of what we hope can be. We imagine something different and maybe better than what is and that image or ideal gives energy to our growing and changing.
But, where ideals are good, being an idealist can become problematic. When people attach “ist” to ideals, the ideals can become so powerful that we are unable live and love the life we have. To add “ist” to ideal is to allow those images of what we hope to be true to block our capacity to see value in what is true. If I have an ideal of how I want to look and become so obsessed with making that happen that I can’t be contented with how I really look, then life can become a daily grind of discontent.
I have been an idealist in my life. I have had images of what life might be and have sought to live up to those images. One of the problems I have discovered is that I not only have images of what I want to be, but I develop images of what I want others to be as well. And when I try to measure life according to those images that others may not have bought into, I find myself disappointed by them.
So, what I try to do with this idealism that has been part of my DNA is to allow the images of a better self shape my actions, but also allow the grace of forgiveness to keep me from becoming overwhelmed by my inability to live up to the ideals. And what I do for myself, I try to do for others. I have values and dreams. I work for the kind of world that I believe is loving and just, but I know that reality can never be what my images conjure. And I hope that growth toward that just and loving future will improve my life and the life of those around me.