Points to Ponder: Struggling with Perfection Because You're Not?
Points to Ponder
Struggling with Perfection Because You're Not?
"Well, I'm not perfect." Many people utter that phrase. Sometimes, it's an all-purpose excuse for some misstep or blunder; as if just expressing that phrase will make everything alright. Of course it's unfair to expect any human being to be perfect, so if I messed up and you're upset about it - well it was your fault for expecting me to be perfect anyway. So you've got the problem. Get over it. Let's just forget it and move on.
With a dismissive phrase or feigned ignorance, we avoid taking personal responsibility for our shortcomings. Because everyone comes up short in something, we just blame the human condition ("I am who I am") and deceive ourselves into thinking our particular shortcoming doesn't really matter. But the standard of perfection is God and scripture puts us all in our place relative to it:
"All have sinned and fallen short of the glory (standard) of God" (Romans 3:23).
Sin itself is defined as "missing the mark," the mark being perfection.
Well, so what? I for one am not content with my imperfections. But that can become a crippling obsession for some people as they pursue "perfect;" being the best at appearance, a sport, academics, or whatever has become a vital part of their identity. I want to strengthen myself in areas where I am weak, but I have to be careful to not allow my performance according to a perceived standard become my identity. There are people who become depressed to the point of tears because they missed the high mark in some area of vital importance to them. The gap between that height of perfection and where they currently find themselves is flashing a message: "Warning. You are failing" which says subconsciously (if not consciously), "You are failing, therefore you are a failure."
Even if you can logically see this self-deceptive mind game going on in your own head, even if you have a good counselor who can reduce this to the ridiculous; after you have a good laugh you may still want to cry. The pursuit of perfection is all about you. Literally. As Dr. Wayne Dyer once said, "If you are what you do, then if you don't you aren't,"
Like many people, I have struggled with this at times. When our daughters were born, I had the standard of the perfect father. I even had videos in my head playing scenes depicting me as the great wise, thoughtful, playful, cool dad that I would be. I could kick myself almost every day since for the various points where I have missed the mark (my mark). It hits me in the morning as I reflect back on what a jerk I was the previous day. I think through the day before and my mental playback has closed captioning for the hearing (and seeing, thinking, speaking, etc.) impaired.
"That wasn't very wise"..."That wasn't a thoughtful thing to say"...Or more bluntly, "What was I thinking!?" Then there's the dad report card: "doesn't play well with others." (I don't play very much.) I see other dads whom I admire. My kids like them too. The playback comes to my mind, "You're not as cool as he is." On and on this goes, measuring myself according to my perceived standard of perfection.
As you pursue self-improvement and growth, you can succumb to one of two pathways. One is the self-denial, palliative approach: "Oh well, I'm not perfect." Because I am alright with it, everyone else is going to have to suck it up and just "accept me for who I am." Funny, that's God's name: "I AM" (Ponder that a moment.)
The other pathway is opposite. "How can anything be right until I get it right?" It is all about me.
So how can you get some balance back when you have started obsessing over your shortcomings? On one of those mornings, I opened my Bible to this:
"I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel; my heart also instructs me in the night seasons. I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved" (Psalm 16:7-8).
It's about God's integrity, which is intact and sure. He is my counsel so that when I am in the night season (feeling low), His word speaks what is true. I listen to Him, not to me. Thus I have set Him before me, at the right-hand place of honor in my life. If I keep the Lord always before me and beside me, I can stand firm from the onslaughts that hit from without and especially those from within. And I can go on.
"Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices..." (Psalm 16:9a).
Put God on the pedestal, not yourself.
Points to Ponder is a series of occasional articles written by Rev. Dennis Whitmore, Pastor of Hilltop Christian Fellowship of Clear Spring, MD. These articles are also found at www.HilltopChristianFellowship.com. Listen to Pastor Dennis on WJEJ-1240 AM, Tues and Thurs, at 10:45am and 7:45pm.