Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Is Perfection Too Perfect?
(this is a photo of a painting I did a few years ago, it's a take on Vermeer..who I always thought was the best of perfectionists!)
What is your idea of perfection? Does it deal with what you look like? Does it reflect your home? Does it reflect being like Jesus? Is it measured by the number of kids you have? Is it measured by the number of kids you have that stay active in your religion? Is it measured by how often you can check things off your list? (Took cookies to new neighbor--check. Made sure my kids said all their prayers tonight--check. Made sure that my husband’s suit was pressed for church--check. Made sure I had the house clean when people stopped by--check. Made sure I didn't eat that second piece of pie so I can look attractive--double check.)
Growing up Christian I was always taught that I should strive to be perfect like Jesus. That I should love others, serve others, sacrifice my time and energy for others, follow a set pattern of keeping the ten commandments and setting my sights on a future where my greatest value would lie in being a good wife and mother (one who DID NOT work outside of the home...because that would cause failure INSIDE the home).
These teachings honestly helped me live a good life. I am so grateful for the integrity that I was taught to live by. I am grateful that I gave to charities, that I helped old widows, that I befriend the friendless, that I kept the Sabbath day holy.
These are things I want to continue to do in my life, no matter if I ever enter church doors again, because I believe they do make the world better. What you put out in love and kindness is sure to be returned to you.
But, it's the idea of PERFECTION that has taken its toll. Growing up I was preached an idea of being perfect: One person I needed to be like—Jesus Christ. One place we all needed to end up--Heaven. One way to get there--the straight and narrow path. One way to be--perfect.
This concentration on perfection went awry in me, as I have seen it do in others. By concentrating on this one perfect version of myself, all I saw were my magnified IMPERFECTIONS.
But what is this definition of perfection? If we are ALL different, then how can one idea of perfection satisfy each person? Does God want us to all be clones of each other (of course, you are all going to emphatically shout NO, D'ARCY--of course NOT! But really then, what is this perfect ideal that we humans seem to seek, or believe in, or follow?)
Perfection is a comparative term. Perfect with respect to what? And what would perfection be like? If it’s the same formula for all, then once reached, wouldn’t it be a state beyond which there is no place to go. It would be a static position. No growth. No change. Is this something anyone, including God would want? I don’t think so. It would be sterile and lifeless.
I don’t know if I believe in the idea of perfection anymore.
But if I did, to me, the idea of perfection would be transformed into a principal of constant and eternal struggle, change, progress, and growth. To be perfect is not to reach some final static state but to engage in the infinite struggles and possibilities of life.
The world and ourselves, as they are, are not to be rejected as imperfect. The world and ourselves are as they should be, a living dynamic process for the eternal creation of love, beauty, and meaning.