One more try, a few more minutes, a slight tweak here…if you try just a little harder, it will be perfect. That is the goal, right? We want to do our best and be our best and best means perfect. In 40 years, no matter how hard I’ve tried that goal was unattainable. Trying to be perfect is tiring. What if the secret has been there all the time – getting ahead by letting go of our perfectionist expectations.
We strive for perfection and find disappointment
I’m fairly confident that perfectionism isn’t a new battle. Unfortunately, the ability to see others and compare gets progressively easier. All around us, people are doing the thing we want to do, celebrating successes we dream of achieving, and turning similar thoughts into realities.
Alas, we’re frozen, maybe stuck, or possibly just reluctant. While we watch, it seems that everyone else passes by and has it all together. And here we are, waiting for our contribution to be perfect.
Perfection is an unrealistic goal. None of us can be perfect, nor should that be our goal. Regrettably, we keep trying. We try but succeed only in being frustrated, disappointed, angry, stressed, and jealous. What we sacrifice in time, relationships, and ourselves is returned to us physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion.
I share this as someone who fights this battle every single day. We cannot continue this quest for perfection. There is a better way to be a “high performer” without sacrificing our lives and losing focus on what really matters.
“Good” does not equal perfect
At some point, our understanding of God’s expectations for our lives became twisted. In our desire to use our gifts well and be “good Christians,” we lost sight of our fallibility and intrinsic incompleteness. Coupled with a good dose of wanting others to think highly of us as well, we fell into the chase for perfection.
Although you might say you’re not chasing perfection, there are times when you’re paralyzed by the imperfection of your life. How did you feel last time you posted on social media only to see a misspelling once posted? Did you quickly fix it? Did you beat yourself up about the error? And that was something seemingly insignificant. What happens with the big things?
All have missed the mark
As toddlers, my children learned Romans 3:23 at church. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The notion of being imperfect is good for children. We expect them to make mistakes. It might even be good for people we’re trying to bring to faith, but what about our ordinary life? Can we allow ourselves to make mistakes in moments that feel less holy and more mundane?
“All have sinned and fall short” shows up in real life as no one is perfect, we all mess up. In its objectivity, the statement bears a bit of comfort. Yes, my neighbor who shows up 10 minutes early to church on Sunday with well-behaved children in coordinating outfits messes up too. She’s not perfect either.
Surely, we realize our humanity. Even as women with careers and children, we’re only beginning the work laid out before us. “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6, emphasis added) We were never meant to be perfect because we’re still under construction. Plus, our perfection comes through Christ’s return, not our efforts.
Pressing on, imperfections and all
“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14 (emphasis added)
Imperfection makes you human. Christ working through you makes you powerful. No spelling error, missed appointment, wrong choice, or slow processing can strip away what God is doing. He’s bigger than you. The space created by your lacking is the space God wishes to fill in your life.
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
Getting ahead by letting go
Getting ahead by letting go of perfection is the key to becoming who Christ designed.
- Let go of the control you wish to have.
- Accept your weaknesses as space for God to work.
- Choose the process of growth.
- Set realistic expectations.
- Request and receive help.
- Enjoy the freedom and creativity of living fully.
Your Next Steps:
This week’s challenge: How is the fear of being wrong or not good enough holding you back?
Be honest with yourself.