One of the categories I post on is “The Ordered Life.” I chose that term, rather than a more popular term like “Organization” or “Productivity” because I’m trying to be mindful of my tendency towards perfectionism.
I’m the oldest of three sisters, and according to Dr. Kevin Leman, perfectionism is a common problem for oldest children. I read Leman’s The Birth Order Book several years ago. While it hasn’t been as helpful as other books I’ve read, it did describe my need to please others and my (mostly frustrated) perfectionistic streak with rather alarming accuracy.
I read a lot of books and blogs and other resources on promoting positive change. One thing that worries me, though, is a sort of “salvation mentality” that creeps into them very often. Positive change and better life management skills are all well and good, but the quest for the next program or system that’s going to “fix” you and your imperfect life can make you crazy.
I would like to be perfect in love. I would like to be perfect in forgiveness. I would like to be perfect in honesty. These are my goals. A perfect home? Perfectly well-behaved children? A perfect marriage? Thanks, I’ll pass.
First, because those things aren’t achievable. Second, because the pursuit of perfection in those things isn’t rooted in a desire for spiritual and emotional maturity. Those are desires that are rooted in pride.
People and relationships will never be perfect, this side of paradise. If that’s what you expect (cough**demand**cough) from your loved ones, you’re setting them up to feel like at best, you mildly disapprove of them.
Here’s the bald, honest truth: you can’t save yourself. As for me, I put my trust in the work of Christ to save me (which is a concept WAY too big to stuff into this post). But even if you disagree with me on issues of the eternal and the spiritual, you can’t disagree with reality. The evidence from reality says that you didn’t bring yourself into this world, and you can’t sustain your own life all by your lonesome.
There is no such thing as the “self-made man” or woman. The reality is, you’re here because other people took care of you when you were an infant, instead of drowning you in the nearest river. Your basic physical needs are met because other people provide you with an income. Because the earth produces food. Because the sun warms the troposphere, and because oxygen you didn’t make continues to fill your lungs.
Embracing imperfection isn’t giving up on capably managing your life like an adult. It’s not a free pass to walk around as the world’s most overgrown adolescent. It’s not ignoring your need to properly manage (or in more gospel-flavored language, “steward”) your resources of time, money and “stuff.” When I talk about striving for a well-ordered life, I’m talking about living as an adult, and essentially keeping chaos from ruling my life. I’m not talking about trying to create perfect order. The difference is striving for improvement while embracing imperfection.
Embracing imperfection is accepting your imperfect state. I accept it, first, because my Creator did, and also because not accepting it is an exercise in making yourself crazy. You can’t change it. You’re imperfect. Deal with it, or continue to beat your head against that unrelenting wall of reality. Embracing imperfection is celebrating, with gratitude and humility, that you don’t have to be perfect to be loved.