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Perfectionists and Realists

Perfectionists and Realists

December brings with it a certain apprehension on my part for all the holiday hoopla. Hibernation until the new year seems quite appealing. Reinstating the Christmas clutter feels burdensome, to say the least. I’ve had to ask myself “why?” Sidestepping self-psychoanalysis, I believe my issue is more about the pseudo-perfection displayed each end-of-year than the dismal childhood memories. My house is half-lit, my wardrobe doesn’t contain perfectly matched, Christmassy clothing and accessories, and my table is less than a Martha Stewart look-alike.

I’m just not a perfectionist.

Sadly, I’ve gone through much of my life thinking I’m one of those “less-thans”. But the older I get, the more I realize that living with a foolproof focus can lead to major frustration! The idea of accomplishing anything with “absolute perfection” is absolutely ludicrous. And as I’ve observed over the years, the expectation of self and others results in sabotaged relationships. If I expect perfection in myself, I will wear myself out trying to present my “best-self” for you. And when I expect perfection in you, watch out! My disappointment in your inability to reach my standards might result in endless discussions on how it should have been or how you could have done it better…or worse.

I’m no psychologist, but I strongly believe that perfectionism leads to mountains of anxiety in one’s life. The base of anxiety many times is perfection. And the base of perfection is control. And maybe the base of control is unhealed childhood trauma. Maybe God’s love can heal those wounds and we won’t have to try to make our heaven here on earth.

This earth is cursed. Sad, but true. I read it in Genesis and I happen to believe everything written in Genesis is legit.  This might be a bit of a stretch, but after each creative endeavor, God said, “It is good.” Even when He said, “very good”, He didn’t say “Perfect”. Hmmm…that honestly just occurred to me! My point? We strive for perfection in an obviously imperfect world. Which brings me to the realist point. At the risk of bursting anyone’s perfectly round bubble, NOTHING on this side of eternity will be perfectly perfect. There is a universal law that tells us that all matter tends toward disorder. If we spend our lives in futility trying desperately to keep impeccable order we will likely lose our minds (along with our loved ones!)

Good is better than perfect. I heard about a plastic surgeon who said that, referring to ultra-fine stitching and how leaving good enough alone left less scarring. Could this be another universal law? When I’m inviting friends for dinner, when I’m planning a wedding, when I’m seeking a solid friendship, when I’m trying out churches, when I’m creating a craft, when buying a home, or when I’m looking at myself in the mirror…can I leave my control at the feet of my Savior and whisper, “Good is better than perfect.”

After Paul’s remarkable treatise on gifts and love in 1 Corinthians 13, he makes this statement: For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. But when I became a man I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

Oh, the futility of living in a state of constant readjusting, foolishly believing perfection here and now is attainable!”? “When the perfect comes…”…future tense. One fine day our Perfect God will once again enter into our atmosphere with the intention of restoration. The curse will be lifted and we’ll behold all the beauty and perfection that was originally intended.

In the meantime, let’s enjoy “good enough”. Let’s relish our relationships and curb the need to perfect our stuff, our friends, our lives.  Take a deep breath…you can do this! (Ok, we’ll wait till you align the treetop star…)

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Lori Travers

Lori finds the Joy of the Lord to be her strength. Born and raised an Italian Jersey girl, she has finally settled in the south as Reynolda Presbyterian church became her new home. Ministry to women, reading, writing, cooking, and anything having to do with animals are her sweet spots. Having a background in cardiac testing, she chose to stay home and raise three incredible children who are now married, and currently has 2 precious granddaughters and one faithful husband of 34 years.

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