Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor…
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.
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?