Tag Archives: perfectionism

The Peril of Perfection

Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor…

~Anne Lamott

I awake from a dream about color, vivid slathers of oily orange resting beside cerulean blue. In my sleep, my brush is masterful, my palette true, I paint with exquisite perfection the tropical  hues, the radiant mix only the Creator could compose.

Rubbing my eyes, I wander into the kitchen to the smell of fragrant coffee. I’m itching to begin, my dream a hopeful omen for this stunning, sultry day.

Tropical 2

I lay out my paint supplies on the lanai and respectfully fasten my 6×8 to the easel.  Deeply inspired by the sun-lit scene before me, I take a breath and begin.

I fail… in slow motion. As the distant waters purple and the sand-warmed shallows turn to green, as the sun-kissed patio below me dazzles with cadmium, ochre, and magenta, my brush-stokes pile with clumsy, muddied confusion.

The Peril Of Perfection

In moments like these I’m tempted to quit, to believe the goal of art, of life, of existence, is to be extraordinary, to surpass all previous attempts. I compare my worst with another’s fine-tuned best, I contrast my flawed attempts with photo-shopped perfection, and lose courage.

Perhaps you do too.

Has our battered self-image ever been so ruthlessly under review? Have we always been required to justify our existence, to prove our value before the stone-eyed gaze of a virtual crowd?  Public humiliation follows one viral posting, personal rejection from one withheld “like”. Social media provides an ongoing beauty pageant, a hall of fame or shame, depending on the whim of your followers.

Yet, the struggle with perfectionism grows from ancient roots. Our anguish and often anger at a world we cannot mend, the burden of our simultaneously high and humble calling, is not new. To be human is to bear astounding potential within a leaky vessel, to find ourselves able to soar near the sun the same moment our wings begin to melt.

We Participate In Another’s Perfection

The same God who designed Hawaii also created me. I sense him at my shoulder, pleased when I notice the light in the shadows, the way the waves tease the shore, but whispering, “well done,” when I mix on my palate his compassion and kindness for the people I’d rather ignore.

Do you know this? As a human being you are designed not for perfection, but for participation in a perfection you can’t achieve on your own.

His perfect love to redeem every hate-filled act.

His perfect truth to counter every person-demeaning lie.

His perfect beauty to remind you, no matter how badly your life has been muddied, the divine Artist has not finished his masterpiece yet.


Do you struggle with perfectionism? 



Sabbath Quiet: A Perfectionist’s Peace

I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. ~Anne Lamott

Piano Perfectionist

Raise your hand if you are a perfectionist.

J.B. Phillip’s, the famous Bible translator admitted, “this obsession for the perfect can make us arrogantly critical of other people and, in certain moods, desperately critical of ourselves.”

Sometimes I picture a tiny courtroom bench, with a toddler banging the gavel and pronouncing judgment on a row of unsuspecting stuffed animals, and then berating herself. The toddler is me. My patient heavenly Father leans against the door, biting his tongue…

Perfectionists may believe in God’s forgiveness. But it doesn’t matter, because it’s not God’s approval we are seeking, instead, “the tyrannical super-Me condemns and has no mercy on myself,” as Phillips sadly notes. Perfectionists assume we know better than God. Our own hearts condemn us.

A Perfectionist’s Peace

God is infinitely greater in wisdom and love than we are and, unlike us, knows all the factors involved in human behavior.

We are guilty of certain things, and these we must confess with all honesty, and make reparation where possible.

But there may be many factors in our lives for which we are not really to blame at all. We did not choose our heredity; we did not choose the bad, indifferent, or excellent way in which we were brought up.

This is naturally not to say that every wrong thing we do, or every fear or rage to which we are subject today, is due entirely to heredity, environment, and upbringing.

But it certainly does mean that we are in no position to judge ourselves; we simply must leave that to God, who is our Father and “is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.”

It is almost as if 1 John 3: 18-20 is saying, “If God loves us, who are we to be so high and mighty as to refuse to love ourselves?”

J.B. Phillips (1906-1982)

How do you address the perfectionist tendencies in you?

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