Love For Imperfect Things by Haemin Sunim — Book Summary and Notes

Haemin Sunim shows us how to cultivate more love, compassion, and wisdom to find beauty in the most imperfect things–including your very own self

When advice like “Just do your best and things will turn out fine” no longer brings us comfort, what should we do?

In Love for Imperfect Things, Haemin Sunim shows us how to cultivate more love, compassion, and wisdom to find beauty in the most imperfect things–including your very own self

When you care for yourself first, the world begins to find you worthy of care. Rather than loving someone only when you feel you understand what it is you love, the kind of deep, enduring shown by the parent does not cease even when the loved one behaves in a way you do not agree with.

Love For Imperfect Things

How to accept yourself in a world striving for perfection By Haemin Sunim

Be good to yourself first, then to others.

Were you praised as a child for being “good”? People who are good at suppressing their desires for others are often labeled “good”. It seems that “good” sometimes refers to someone who overthinks others to express their will. Even when constant demands surround you, remember to be good to yourself first.

Your Existence is Already Worthy of Love

Don’t think you are lovable only when you succeed at what the world demands. You are already worthy of love. Look inside and see if you can find your inner child, still shaking with anxiety. Send the energy of loving-kindness and look at him compassionately—how difficult it must have been living up to someone else’s expectations.

Every person in this world is someone’s precious child. It can feel like a mystery why my child, parent, or sibling thinks and behaves a certain way. But although we may neither comprehend nor like it, we can love them because love transcends understanding. Sometimes we want to be told “I need you” more than we do “I love you” because we want to feel that our lives have a purpose.

The Power of Hugs

Some love you for who you are, and some love you for what you do. There is no change in the love of those who love you for who you are, even when you make a mistake or fail. Such people are your friends and family. Decide to be happy for yourself, and act on it. Do not surrender to someone else the power to make you happy.

Listening Is An Act of Love

I sometimes wonder why we stay up late uploading messages on social media. No one forces us to; it’s simply our desire to share with the world what we did that day, what we thought about, what photos we thought. We want someone to listen to what we say, even if that someone is in the impersonal online world. Because only then do we feel that our actions have meaning, that our existence has value.

To My Beloved Young Friends

We have become accustomed to sacrificing the present for the sake of the future. We have overlooked the importance of enjoying the journey while prizing only the destination. But in our lives, there comes a time when we begin to doubt whether this present that we are enduring will ever lead to the future of our dreams. Even if the plan comes true, will it be worth our sacrifices for our relationships and happiness to achieve it? And what if the vision we achieved was never ours but that of our parents or teachers? What if we were measuring ourselves against society’s yardstick of success?

Many people who try to forge their path or strike out for uncharted territory come up against strong opposition. If your timid heart wonders, “Is this okay?” dare to smile back at your heart and say firmly, “Yes, it is!”

My Beloved Young Friends: Living the life you wish for is okay. You can create your destiny, free from your parents and society’s expectations. You can live the life you think has meaning. Even if those around you try to dissuade you, saying you can’t, you mustn’t; it won’t work. They are not living your life for you, are they?

Chapter 1: Self-Care

Don’t Be Too Good

  • Learn to express what you are feeling without agonizing over it.
  • “It’s difficult for me to do it on my own. Could you please help me out?”
  • When someone asks for a favor, don’t forget that you have to option to say, “I’m sorry, but I can’t do that.” You have no obligation to take on a task that will significantly burden you.
  • And if the relationship grows strained because you do not do the favor, it was never a good relationship, to begin with.
  • Only if you are happy will you be able to make those around you happy.
  • As you would invest in the person you love, you should invest in yourself.
  • Look at your flaws with love.
  • Rather than choosing a life in which you do nothing for fear of making a mistake, choose a life that improves through failure and pain.
  • We become more humble and understanding as the weight of our secrets grows.
  • Compare yourself not with others but with the old you.
  • “No matter what you say, I won’t give up. Let’s see who is right in the end.”
  • “Why should your life be destroyed by the easy criticism of those who do not know or care about you?”
  • If you believe what others say about you, they will begin to control you.
  • Not everything that appears in your mind is true. Do not let someone else’s opinion rule your life.
  • “Namaste.” The divine being within me bows to the divine being within you.

Your Existence is Already Enough

  • Don’t let your complicated past define who you are today.
  • If a selfish person in your life makes things difficult for you, look deeply into his pain and try to understand where he is coming from.
  • So much of what we do comes from that desire to be recognized. Shower your child with attention, and make them feel secure in your life. This way, they won’t grow up starved for other people’s acknowledgment.
  • When you decide, listen to your heart more than others’ opinions.
  • Lengthy deliberation often leads to a terrible decision.
  • Being alone makes the world pause momentarily and helps restore harmony.

Chapter 2: Family

“Please Look After Mom”

  • “Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while and leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same.”
  • No matter how good a relationship is, it is inevitable that it will change over time.
  • The real cause isn’t your partner; it’s the wound you are carrying within you: “I am terrified that you will reject and leave me as my mom did.”
  • I love you. I thank you. And I need you.

Understanding Our Fathers

  • Love needs no reason other than love itself.
  • If you did all you could, leave it be.
  • The change will last longer when it’s not forced but when it comes about because they have been convinced of its need.
  • If we think of the child as a stranger, we focus on the inconvenience to ourselves. Still, if we think of the child as a family member, we become merciful, wondering whether the child is uncomfortable or in pain.

Chapter 3: Empathy

The Power of Hugs

  • May my suffering become the seed of compassion.
  • One expression of love is to leave someone to their own devices.
  • When we love someone, the greatest gift we can give is to be fully present with them.

Listening is An Act of Love

  • We can help people even if we do not know the solutions to their problems because we care enough to stay and lend our ears.
  • When we tell someone about our problems, more often than not, we do not want to hear the “right words” from them. We want to be heard.
  • When someone speaks to you, please do not rush to give them advice; hear them out.
  • Genuine love seems to love “despite”.
  • Love is the state of not knowing and of wanting to learn more.
  • Choosing not to hate them is the best revenge.
  • “Just like me, he needs to support his family. Just like me, he’s thinking about his future. Just like me, he must be facing a hardship that not many people know about.”
  • Your perspective reveals something that I had been unaware of. Tell me more, because I want to understand it.
  • “Am I concentrating on the task I have been given?”

Chapter 4: Relationships

On A Zen Retreat

  • Not criticizing those who live a different way than you do and making an effort to understand and accept them.
  • Rather than having seen each other for who they are, they only saw a fantasy that they projected on each other.
  • No matter how busy you are, you still make time.
  • If you are going to think, “Why don’t they do for me as much as I have done for them?” then don’t do it in the first place. Or give only so much that you won’t expect something in return.
  • How someone speaks about the other relationships they’ve had before the meeting, you tell you how they will talk about you to other people whenever your relationship hits a minor road bump.
  • When you stand alone like a full moon, already complete in yourself, you will meet another whole person and complete just like you, and between you two, a healthy relationship can grow.

Dealing with Disappointment

  • The truth is freeing to both the one who expresses and hears it.
  • The real problem may be your expectation that others must adapt to you.
  • Before asking someone for a favor, a wise person thinks about how to help that person first.
  • If someone did not ask for your help, do not try to solve their problem for them. Though your intention may be good, you risk taking control away from them.
  • You can impression someone with words at first, but without actions to back them up, the good feeling cannot last.
  • Who is an unfortunate person? One who looks at other people and sees only their flaws
  • If you listen to someone tell a story about someone else, in many cases, more is revealed about the speaker than the one they are discussing. Of all the attributes that make up a person, they speak of the one that captured their attention.
  • “What is the point of talking about someone not here?”
  • When you are with one friend, you gossip about celebrities; with another, you speak about money; with another, politics. Rather than “you” being fixed, you change from moment to moment, depending on whom you are with.
  • It seems all we can do is try to understand the other person—the circumstances we weren’t unaware of make them act the way they do.

Chapter 5: Courage

To My Beloved Young Friends

  • If you’ve waited for someone to show up and change your life, and they still haven’t appeared, don’t wait any longer. You need to become that person for yourself.
  • Ask yourself: What are the values that guide my life? What do I want to achieve in my life?
  • The idea of “perfection” exists only in your mind. You know so much more than you think you do.
  • Distinguish between what you can control and what you can’t

The First Failure

  • “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”
  • If you allow yourself to be shaken, the world will shake you all the more complex.
  • You get to do what you like if you also do what you don’t like
  • Put your heart, mind, and soul into even minor acts.

Chapter 6: Healing

When Forgiveness is Hard

  • How can we so easily forgive someone who has told us such awful lies, leaving us hurt and insulted?
  • However much someone deserves your hatred, hating them will make you the biggest victim of your hatred.
  • A mere five or ten minutes here and there can dramatically improve your quality of life.
  • If you own several of the same things, keep only the one you like the best, and give the others away.
  • Uncluttered space is a source of comfort and relaxation, and you are left with only the things that make you happy.

Transforming Knowledge into Action

  • There is always a gap between what you know and how you act. Only when you put your new knowledge into action, slowly and with much effort, will change begin to come.
  • In Buddhism, too, the experience of enlightenment is followed by a lifetime work of the bodhisattva, helping all living beings in this world to close this gap.
  • If you think about only your problems, they seem significant and unique to you. But if you begin to care about the issue of others, you realize that yours are neither essential nor unique.

Chapter 7: Enlightenment

The Mind’s True Home

  • When you are lost in thought, you might not see what is right in front of you.
  • When we begin our spiritual journey, we leave home searching for something extraordinary, only to realize that what we have long sought has been inside us all along.
  • Don’t assume that a still mind is dull. Inside the stillness hides the utmost peace and contentment.
  • “Silence is as deep as Eternity; speech is shallow as time.”
  • “True freedom is freedom from the known.”
  • Our true selves can never be lost, even for a single moment. Just like the present can never be lost—it is always here and now, whether or not we pay attention to it.

Chapter 8: Acceptance

The Art of Letting Go

  • What causes us such distress is not the memory but the emotions surrounding it.
  • Emotions are like uninvited guests. They come whenever they want to and leave once you acknowledge their presence.
  • If neither of you backs down, you won’t get anywhere. And it’s much quicker to change your behavior than to convince someone else to change theirs.
  • Remember the words of Dale Carnegie: “Let’s not allow ourselves to be upset by small things we should despise and forget.”
  • When someone upsets you, recall something upsetting from a year ago. Does it still bother you? You probably can’t even remember it all that well, right?
  • However happy we manage to be, it seems nothing can ever be perfect.
  • Even things that initially look bad contain something if only we look closely.

Lessons from Life’s Low Point

  • People start out trying to achieve success as the world defines it, but as they get older, they begin to enlarge their idea of success. It is the law of nature that what goes up must come down, so people gradually train their sights away from worldly success and on happiness in learning, volunteering, friendships, and spiritual practice.
  • The voice that criticizes and berates me is much louder than the one that cheers me on. When times are tough, that cheering voice can get drowned out. But keep listening. After your critics have moved on to criticize someone else, you will start to hear those who have stayed behind steadily cheering you on.
  • People often think that their way of doing things is the right way. If they see something being done in a way that is not theirs, they jump in to tell others they’re doing it wrong. But other people’s ways are not faulty, only unfamiliar to you.
  • When somebody annoys you, recognize that you feel annoyed because they didn’t do something the way you wanted it done. They may have their reason for doing something their way, which you should not disregard and try to replace with your own.
  • We suffer as we put off the things we ought to finish today. Pick a specific time today when you will do whatever you’ve been putting off, and when the time comes, don’t make excuses or get distracted—do it.