Do you look at other people and think maybe you don’t measure up? Or maybe think you might be just a little bit broken? I’ve heard the story of The Cracked Pot twice in the space of a couple days. It really touches me, when we try so hard to make everything perfect for those around us or try to improve something about ourselves or our life. 

A water bearer in India had two large pots, each hung on the end of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, and while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the master’s house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

For a full two years, this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water in his master’s house. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect to the end for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do. After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream. “I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you”. The bearer asked, “Why? What are you ashamed of?”  The Pot replied, “For these past two years I am able to deliver only half of my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master’s house. Because of my flaws, you don’t get full value for your efforts”. 

The water bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his compassion, he said, “As we return to the master’s house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path.”  As they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful wild flowers on the side of the path, and this cheered it somewhat.  But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because it had leaked out half its load, and so again it apologized to the bearer for its failure.

The bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of your path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you’ve watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master’s table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have this beauty to grace his house.”

Having flaws makes us human, and it speaks of our uniqueness. The cracked pot was able to contribute beautifully, even though it could not see beyond its own flaws. How boring it would be if we were all the same, perfect but monotonous. But broken things that are not able to be  used to their fullest capacity can be repaired and become functional as well as beautiful. There’s actually a Japanese art to fixing broken pottery called “Kinsugi”.  When a valuable piece of pottery is repaired using gold to fill in the broken bits, it becomes more beautiful, serviceable, and stalwart than before. Despite our flaws, our experiences leave indelible marks that make us stronger and distinctive each in our own way. There is no sense in measuring ourselves against others; our life and our experiences create our own individual fingerprint in life.

Whether we are cracked pots, or repaired, we all have our own jobs to do, and we need to make the best of our abilities measured only against our own yardstick and no one else’s.