In certain stores you will find a section of merchandise available at greatly reduced prices. The tip-off is a particular tag you will see on all the items in that area. Each tag carries the same words: as is.
This is a euphemistic way of saying, “These are damaged goods.” Sometimes they’re called slightly irregular. The store is issuing you fair warning: “This is the department of Something’s-Gone-Wrong. You’re going to find a flaw here: a stain that won’t come out; a zipper that won’t zip; a button that won’t butt—there will be a problem. These items are not normal.
“We’re not going to tell you where the flaw is. You’ll have to look for it.
“But we know it’s there. So when you find it—and you will find it—don’t come whining and sniveling to us. Because there is a fundamental rule when dealing with merchandise in this corner of the store: No returns. No refunds. No exchanges. If you were looking for perfection, you walked down the wrong aisle. You have received fair warning. If you want this item, there is only one way to obtain it. You must take it as is.”
When you deal with human beings, you have come to the “as-is” corner of the universe. Think for a moment about someone in your life. Maybe the person you know best, love most. That person is slightly irregular.
That person comes with a little tag: There’s a flaw here. A streak of deception, a cruel tongue, a passive spirit, an out-of-control temper. I’m not going to tell you where it is, but it’s there. So when you find it—and you will find it—don’t be surprised. If you want to enter a relationship with this model, there is only one way. “As is.”
If you were looking for perfection, you’ve walked down the wrong aisle.
We are tempted to live under the illusion that somewhere out there are people who are normal. In the movie As Good As It Gets, Helen Hunt is wracked by ambivalence toward Jack Nicholson. He is kind and generous to her and her sick son, but he is also agoraphobic, obsessive-compulsive, and terminally offensive: If rudeness were measured in square miles, he’d be Texas. In desperation, Helen finally cries to her mother: I just want a normal boyfriend.
Oh, her mother responds in empathy, everybody wants one of those. There’s no such thing, dear.
When we enter relationships with the illusion that people are normal, we resist the truth that they are not. We enter an endless attempt to fix them, control them, or pretend that they are what they’re not. One of the great marks of maturity is to accept the fact that everybody comes “as is.”
John Ortberg, Everybody’s Normal till You Get to Know Them (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009).