2 Corinthians 12:9, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
Human beings are imperfect by nature and thus, are incapable of being “Perfect.” Throw off pressure and weight behind perfectionism! Imperfection is a safe and attainable goal. This is not to say that we should not make a conscious effort to abide by our values, but rather to say that individuals can choose to avoid negative or wrathful judgments against self or others when perfection goes unachieved.
The dangers and consequences of perfectionism though are many. Some individuals respond to their failure to achieve perfection by hating themselves and feeling “inadequate” or “unworthy” while other recognize they have failed to achieve absolute perfection and respond by proceeding to intentionally make destructive choices. An overwhelming sense of failure that results in giving up or some form of hate is neither healthy nor productive.
Altogether too often, individuals recognize that they have failed to be “perfect” and immediately punish themselves for failing to achieve this impossible standard. When this cycle continues for several years, the result is clinical levels of depression and anxiety. In extreme cases, long-term perfectionism results in a paralyzing fear of failure, stopping individuals from even attempting to learn, grow or take personal responsibility for fear that they may not execute such tasks “perfectly”.
Perfectionism is a root of anxiety because the person is in a constant cycle of trying to adhere to a standard (which cannot be adhered to) and chastising themselves for failing to meet said impossible standard. Imagine a life where you could make mistakes regularly, fail every now and again, and not feel like a failure.
Failure and imperfection are, in fact, integral parts of the process of human development and the process of learning any and all new skills. Learning to ride a bicycle involves several falls, collisions, and imperfections before it becomes natural to us. This same principle applies to all areas of learning to include less concrete skills such as emotional awareness/expression and the development of interpersonal relationships.
Sometimes Christians get caught up on Matthew 5:48, “Be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect”. That said, theologian and Christian author, R.C. Sproul (2010) reports that the original translation of the word “perfect” in scripture means “complete”. A complete person includes the full spectrum of human emotions as well as out human qualities, both good and bad. To hate those parts of us which are “imperfect” causes inner turmoil and avoidance of pieces of us which require our love, respect, and attention.
Include all parts, even the flaws, within your sense of self. Be kind and gracious toward the parts of yourself which are weaker, just as you would to those personal qualities you admire. Recognize that human imperfections are necessary and important.
Sproul, R.C. (2010). Be ye perfect. Ligionier Ministries. Retrieved from: http://www.ligonier.org/blog.be-ye-perfect/