Striving for the Unattainable, part 1

The disappointments that come in my life can usually be traced back to one thing: my quest for perfectionism. Thus "disappointments" are often just the normalcies of life, but I can have a different view of them when I'm straining to squint at the world through lenses of "what could be."

Let's start off on a positive note: perfectionism can be good. It can cause people to strive to do their best and pursue greater heights than what they may have achieved if they blindly accepted mediocrity.

In fact, perfectionism is mentioned in the Bible: "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). [It follows a discussion on loving your neighbor, friend or enemy. So maybe the perfectionism is focusing on that exhortation.]

And when the rich young ruler thought he was perfect, Jesus said, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me" (Matthew 19:21). This is usually interpreted as what this particular guy needed to do in order to become a more humble follower -- give up the thing he treasured -- not that everyone who wants to be perfect should give away all possessions. But you never know . . . those possessions hold a lot of us back.

But perfectionism can cause a person like me some stumbling blocks. Such as when I put unnecessary pressure on myself and then have unnecessary guilt when I don't do things perfectly. Or when I don't even start a project because I know I can't do it perfectly, therefore I don't want to even try.

It can hurt those around me when I expect perfect from them too. I tell myself I won't project my own perfectionism onto Steve and Kaelyn, but inevitably I end up having high expectations every once in a while about what I expect from them -- and those come crashing down when the inner expectations in my head explode out my mouth in my frustration over something usually quite small or insignificant. Sorry to you both who have to live with me day in and day out!

And sometimes perfectionism hits me when the day's events don't go just as I was imagining in my mind. Reality should remind me once in a while that I shouldn't even set myself up for that type of "disappointment," but it happens nonetheless.

How does this spill over to my spiritual life? And then what do I do with such perfectionism? I'll expound upon that in part 2 . . .
Kelly1 Comment