Last night I was reclining in bed, surrounded by pillows, books, notebooks, and reading glasses, writing a blog post on my IPhone. These phones are very handy when one has a thought and doesn’t want to lose it in the quagmire of daily living (or nightly dreaming). I was about to save the post when my finger accidentally hit the publish button.
There’s something very ironic (and humbling) about accidentally posting a post on perfectionism… It wasn’t ready. I hadn’t said it all yet. Hmmm…well, maybe I had, but I certainly hadn’t gone over it twenty three times to make sure it was as perfect as I could write it.
Hence, this Part 2 — more thoughts about perfectionism. But this time I’m thinking about the blessings of it — because God does require our best and our best can be a blessing, not only to those around us, but also to ourselves.
Artists and writers and musicians and craftsmen particularly know the struggle here. How does one know if the piece is finished and finished well? Madeline L’Engle says that inspiration usually comes as you are working, not before. So if one keeps working, one will continually be inspired. Perhaps when the inspiration stops, the piece is finished well?
That works for pieces of music or writing or art, but it doesn’t hold up so well for paint or wood or refinishing windows. The wood of those windows we refinished isn’t perfect. It’s old. It’s got dents and nail holes.
We all have our imperfection tolerance limits, and the more talent one has, the higher the limit. That’s as it should be. Mr. H.C., the contractor has higher expectations for his carpentry skills than I do for mine. (Ahem…maybe part of my frustration?)
God, the perfect one, should have absolutely no tolerance for our human imperfections; yet he does. Rather, he loves us for them. And no amount of our own striving can make us achieve that perfectionism that is God. He has given us that striving, made it part of us, so we would desire to be like him. In that way it is a blessing, his gift to us.
It only becomes bad when — dare I say it? — the devil (or the world, if you prefer) keeps whispering in our ears that we aren’t good enough or didn’t do it well enough. That’s when it becomes a curse.
And so I say, EMBRACE your perfectionism! It is a God-given gift. Just draw the line when you no longer see the blessing or feel the inspiration. And say the words that Jesus said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matthew 16:23)