How many times a day do you say, hear or read that word? I confess, until recently, it was a word that I thought about and used multiple times a day. The more I said it, read it and accepted "perfect" into my day to day, the less perfect I felt. I was working hard to prove to myself and others how put together I was, trying to get my identity from being a perfect something (a perfect student, a perfect friend, girlfriend, wife, you name it!) and the more I performed, the more exhausted I was. Deep down, I knew, that despite my most valiant efforts, that I was not perfect. I felt like an exhausted fraudulent mess!
Can you relate? Do you long for perfection or control? Maybe for you it looks like wanting to be perfect in just one area in your life where you can be the best at something. Or maybe you know you won't be the best, so you never even try. Have you found yourself working so much just to find out that you are not getting any closer to the finish line?
If you have found yourself thinking about being perfect and wondering what to do with this trap, there is hope! Here four things that have shaped the way I look at perfection;
1. You and I are made in the image of God. Therefore, we are made to be perfect. Don’t be surprised that you long for perfection.
2. If you know you are made in God's image, then you probably also know you are a sinner (aka: not perfect). Sinners cannot achieve complete perfection on your own.
3. Don't panic. Jesus lived a perfect life so that you don't have to (and because you can't). This is the beauty of the gospel!
4. Consider pursuing excellence and personal growth instead of attempting to be perfect. It will prove to be a much more successful journey.
It is not easy to apply Gospel truth to thoughts and habits, but I hope to encourage you to consider what might happen if you did. In his book, Perfecting Ourselves to Death: The Pursuit of Excellence and the Perils of Perfectionism, Dr. Richard Winter writes,
“We can rest in that deep security and know that we have significance in being made in his (God’s) image and in being a child of God, saved by his grace, not by anything we have done or earned. At the deepest level, understanding and experiencing God’s grace is the key to unlocking the prison of perfectionism” (p. 160).
In my messy and imperfect walk, I have found what Dr. Winter writes to be true. God's grace freely gives me what I was trying to earn. I already perfectly loved and accepted by my heavenly father and that I do not have to be perfect to earn his affections. Seeking to live out of this truth has freed me up to perform less while loving and serving others more. And event though the tension of longing for perfection is not gone, but now I am free to remember that one glorious day, I will be reunited to my maker and restored to my original factory setting: Perfect.
Rebeca Gilbert, MA, LAPC