Clearing out my desk in preparation for retirement, I came across the story of “The Cracked Pot”. I have no idea the origin of this little parable; but I was touched by the wisdom. Be gentle and kind with your cracks and the cracks of others. There is beauty in our brokenness:

The Cracked Pot

A water-bearer had two large water pots hanging at either end of a pole that he carried across his neck every day from the stream to deliver water to his master’s house.

One of the pots was perfect. It always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the master’s house. The other pot had a crack in it; by the time it reached its destination, much of the water it should have carried had drained away and it arrived only half full.

Because of the crack in one of his pots, every day the water-bearer delivered only one-and-a-half pots of water to his master.

Of course, the perfect pot was proud of how well it fulfilled its job. But the poor cracked pot was sad that it could only deliver half the water it was designed to carry and was ashamed of its imperfection.

Finally, one day, after years of what the imperfect water pot felt was its bitter failure, it spoke to the water-bearer saying, “I am ashamed of the poor job I have done for you; I want to apologize.”

“Why?” asked the water-bearer. “What could you possibly have to be ashamed of?”

“Well,”  said the cracked pot, “all these years, I have been able to deliver only half a load of water for the master each day because this crack in my side allows water to leak out as you walk back to the master’s house. Because of my flaw, you have to do all this work without getting full value for your efforts.”

The water-bearer felt compassion for the old cracked pot and replied, “As we return to the master’s house today, I want you to look carefully at the path along which we walk.”

To the cracked pot’s astonishment as they went up the hill, he noticed that all along his side of the path there were beautiful wildflowers growing, while on the opposite side there was only dry hard packed dirt and a few parched weeds.

The water-bearer asked the pot, “Did you notice that there were flowers only on one side of the path? That’s because I’ve always known about your crack and took advantage of it by planting seeds on your side of the path. Every day as we walked back from the stream, you gently watered those seeds, and for years I have picked these beautiful flowers to decorate my master’s table. Without your crack, he would not have had this beauty to grace his home.”


I love Leonard Cohen’s luminous song “Anthem” and have always valued the line “there’s a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.” But I wish he might have changed “in” to “our” so that the line might have said, “there’s a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets out.”

The truth is that the light is already in you. The only challenge is to embrace our cracks and see them as the means by which that luminous presence is shared with the world. Yes we are cracked pots; but it is our cracks that enable the light to be manifest.