Dancing and My Limits

Perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of finding God in everything is how we find God in human limits, whether in others or ourselves. As someone who is rather perfectionistic, especially about myself, coming to terms with personal limits can be difficult. Indeed, perfectionism itself is probably one of my worst character flaws! There the evil spirit can enter in, as perfectionism can lead me to overwork and exhaustion, or having excessively high expectations in interpersonal relationships.

dance stepsWhile on retreat recently, Jesus used the image of dancing to help me to think differently about my own limits. I can become frustrated when I don’t always follow Jesus as closely as I would like to be able. Learning to follow Jesus, though, can be like trying to follow a dance partner’s new steps. My husband took ballroom dance class in college, while I did not. Still, he is a good sport about it when we dance at weddings or the like, and we always have a fun time together, even if our steps are not perfect. The smiles and laughter in our being together make up for the lack of professional skill. Jesus, too, asks us to follow him, but with the loving care of a partner who enjoys the process of being with us as much as the outcome.

Catherine of Siena uses a different image in talking about how to deal with shortcomings. She suggests that when God looks at our sin, He always “plucks the rose from that thorn” (Dialogue). We, too, can regard both others’ and our own shortcomings in this way, with gentleness and with an eye to finding what graces might come from any given situation. For example, years ago I went through a major depression that was very difficult. Years later, though, a friend told me that she thinks it has made me much more deeply compassionate toward others’ suffering. Compassion is a flower from the thorns that has bloomed many years later.

My husband’s late grandmother was an avid letter writer. She used to end each letter she wrote to our family with the reminder, “Enjoy one another.” Her adage remains good advice for families, friends, religious communities, and even strangers. God wants us not only to grow into holiness, but also to take joy in our steps as we walk (and dance) with Him.


Today’s 31 Days with St. Ignatius selection is the video, Why Ignatian Spirituality Appeals to Young People.

About Marina McCoy 73 Articles
Marina McCoy is an associate professor of philosophy at Boston College, where she teaches philosophy and in the BC PULSE service learning program. She is the author of Wounded Heroes: Vulnerability as a Virtue in Ancient Greek Philosophy (Oxford University Press, 2013). She and her husband are the parents to two young adults and live in the Boston area.
Contact: Website

6 Comments on Dancing and My Limits

  1. Hi Marina! I’ve been dancing for six years, and I now teach dance and run a program teaching the Theology of the Body and intentional discipleship based around ballroom dance. Not everyone will be a great dancer like Fred Astaire anymore than everyone will be a great saint like St. Catherine of Sienna. Nonetheless, I found that with a certain level of skill in dance comes some extremely profound insights into the TOB (so many I have written a book that someday Lord willing I will finish editing.) Among them I found that following Jesus is indeed a dance, or rather ballroom dance is an echo of that perfect exchange of blessing that will be following Jesus in the muisc of the Holy Spirit which we will experience in heaven. It moves me to desire deeply that God write his law upon my heart, for the only purpose of the law is that we may receive God’s blessings more abundantly and return our blessing to him. Through learning dance I have learned to seek perfection in my relationship with Christ without any frustration or fear or condemnation.

  2. Though I can’t dance, God invites me to dance with him and if I shed all my insecurities and dance with him,,I am sure I will experience joy.

  3. Thank you, Marina, for an insightful reflection. “Compassion is a flower from the thorns that has bloomed many years later” has become especially meaningful for me.

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