A Problem with Perfection

I’ve never claimed to be perfect… such a claim would be prideful. Since pride is not a likeable quality, it would not fit into the personality of the ‘perfect’ person. Making such a claim of being perfect is then counter-productive at any attempt to be perfect. So I may not have ever claimed it, but maybe I’ve thought it. More appropriately I’ve wanted to be able to think it; I’ve always assumed that achieving perfection was the goal.

But what is perfection anyway? In our churches and society I think it is an illness. It is an illness because it has crippled us in our ability to connect with people and God in the most human way which God designed us to connect; perfectionism poisons vulnerability. Even as I write this I worry about what readers will think of word choice and the presentation of my thoughts. Will they approve, be impressed, click ‘like’? Or will they discard it as another whimsical attempt at a blog to be lost in the sea of the internet? Either way, the thought and desire to appear perfect to YOU, haunts my thinking.

But I am not perfect, truly (I don’t say that to appear perfect… seriously), none of us are. Yet we will often times exhaust ourselves to appear in such a way that seems perfect to others. We do this with strangers, friends, and even our closest loved ones. Worst of all, we do this with God.

In the Old Testament we read about a man named David. He was far from perfect. What is appealing to me about David though, is that he was honest about that fact. In Psalm 32 we read a glimpse of David’s prayer journal where he prays,

Then I acknowledged my sin to you
    and did not hide my iniquity.
I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’
And you forgave the guilt of my sin.”

I hope to genuinely share in David’s discipline of not hiding iniquity, of not hiding imperfection. In these few verses we see the beauty of David’s vulnerability: God restores him. Instead of hiding he exposes something of himself that would have been detestable to God perhaps fearing rejection. Instead of rejection though, David receives grace and forgiveness.

It seems that many of my interactions with God and people, unlike David’s, involve me trying to be perfect. It is as if I am scared that people will see something detestable in me and reject me. So I hide imperfection, my failings, hiding the very things that are so much a part of being human. The scriptures do not endorse this type of behaviour, in fact the gospel of Jesus Christ seems to speak the loudest to those who have found and fully realized their imperfection.

The Apostle Paul gets this too. After stating reasons that made him a pretty ‘perfect’ type of christian, he settles in saying, ‘ If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness’ (2 Corinthians 11). Is that backwards or what? The Christian way is then not a way of perfection, but of imperfection. 

Unfortunately a lot of our Christian expression is glossed over in this mentality that because we have Jesus, everything is now perfect. Our worship services do not lend themselves to emotions of pain, frustration, deep sorrow, loss, or anger (perhaps labeled ‘imperfect’ emotions), but should not those services be the very place that we share with God and others the imperfect realities of our lives?

It is in our imperfection that we are drawn nearer to him who is perfect. It is in our weakness and recognition of our insufficiency that Jesus can break in. When we recognize pain, hopelessness, frustration, anger, pride and are honest about them, then we can truly bring them to Christ. When we are vulnerable with God and others, amazing healing can take place.

I am not perfect, and I am going to guess that neither are you. Lets not see that as something to hide. Instead lets be honest, lets pray honest, and lets stop trying to hide from God and each other. Is there a risk? Well yeah, but I believe it is one worth taking.

-Adam Foster


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