Within the last week I’ve had two different people use the word “perfectionist” to describe me. I was more surprised than offended. I’ve never thought of myself as a perfectionist. Conscientious? Yes. A person with high standards? Perhaps. Ambitious even? Yes. But perfectionist? Not so much. At least I didn’t think so . . .
I view myself as a fairly laid back person who can, at times, get a bit carried away with her enthusiasm. In my mind, a perfectionist is someone who is almost compulsive in their need to control things and to be right. Overall, that does NOT describe me. (Anyone who has witnessed my housecleaning abilities would not argue with that!) But I will admit that my enthusiasm and conscientiousness can sometimes lead me down the path toward perfectionism.
Recently I was working on a knitting project with my teenage daughter. At one point I realized that I had somehow reversed the pattern in the wrong place and was actually knitting on the wrong side of the project piece. When I sighed in annoyance, my sweet daughter said, “That’s ok, Mom. It’s Amish!” She then went on to explain that the Amish always add a mistake to their work out of respect for God because only He is perfect. I guess I’ve been Amish all this time and I didn’t even know it!
Of course, most of us don’t have to add an imperfection to our lives out of respect for God. It just comes naturally. But this idea sure does take the pressure off. Doesn’t it?
I know I’m not alone here so I guess the real concern is, why do we (yes, it is now OUR problem!) feel the need to try and be perfect? Is it a need for acceptance? Is it fueled by media images of perfect families and perfect bodies? Is it the idea that people will only like you if you have it all together? Are you trying to avoid the wrath of random people in your life by doing everything right?
Take heart, if any of those reasons are yours. God loves us anyway. In fact, He loves us because we are imperfect. Our imperfections reveal what can happen sometimes when our choices and attitudes don’t mesh with God’s. But He gave us free will so that we could find our way to Him on our own. He didn’t force us to love Him, which He certainly could have. Our imperfections actually make it all the sweeter when we DO turn to God with loving hearts.
So, how do you find the line between fervent enthusiasm and perfectionism? If things in your life must be a certain way, you are probably falling into perfectionism. If you don’t seem to care about the quality of anything that you do, then you are probably at the other extreme. I guess if you can accept your imperfections with love and faith, knowing that God gave you gifts and flaws that make you who you are, then you’re on the right track. But that can be hard to do sometimes.
There are times, I suppose, when some well-placed perfectionism might not be against God’s will. When you answer God’s call in your life and are filled with zeal for the mission, you might fall into the trap of perfectionism. Is that justification for perfectionism? I guess some would say “yes” and some would say “no”. Well, I don’t know that I have the answer to that question but I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts.
I’m still not sure if those descriptions of me were accurate but I will definitely reflect on it. Until I figure that out, I will attempt to channel my inner Amish and remember that God is the only perfect one and He loves me, warts and all.