For now we see in a mirror, dimly…Now I know only in part. —1 Cor. 13:12 (NRSV)
Nametria, a 20-something friend I am mentoring, visited me recently and I prepared lunch. I have very specific ways I like to prepare lunch and serve it. After lunch, I planned to send her home with a few items she would need for a trip she was taking for her new job. So I began looking for a certain bag to put the items in that I thought would look nice. After watching me throughout the afternoon as I proceeded through my tasks in my own way, I guess she couldn’t take it any longer—especially when I wanted her to be equally invested in my particular way of getting things done. She said, “Ms. Davis, everything doesn’t have to be perfect.”
I looked at her, laughed, and admitted she was right. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect, especially when it comes to offering acts of loving. I wanted the afternoon to be “perfect” so she would have a pleasurable experience. Instead, she wanted to release me from the expectations I placed on myself because the next step would be to hold her to perfection. It gets tricky when I just want it done well, but it looks like I’m imposing my idea of perfection on other people. Perfection is still a burden, even when it’s done in the name of love.
The apostle Paul, the author of 1 Corinthians, beautifully defines love. He asserts that
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. —1 Cor. 13:4-7
This scripture is a hymn about what it means to love perfectly. However, Paul in his wisdom understood that perfection is not possible; it just isn’t. We know this because he adds the verse above (13:12) that affirms “we see through a glass darkly” (KJV). We don’t see perfectly, nor can we act perfectly. Only God’s love is perfect, full of grace and mercy. Understanding this truth should liberate us to embrace our imperfections and be compassionate toward ourselves.
Brené Brown, a professor at the University of Houston, describes how trying to be perfect affects our lives in her article Want to be happy? Stop trying to be perfect. Perfection doesn’t typically lead to joy, according to Brown. She recommends we replace the need for perfection with compassion and courage.
But I could have told her that. Each week I wrestle with what I’m going to write and also how to speak from my authentic voice. Should I only write about the things that go well, or should I include those life events where I failed? I mentioned to my daughter last week that I felt like a failure when I did not get a new assignment on my last adjunct teaching position at a university. She looked at me in surprise and said, “Mommy, I didn’t know you ever felt like a failure. When things don’t work out, you just say ‘oh well’ and keep going.” In this particular case, I did feel like a failure because I had tried to be perfect. Get to class early, be perfectly prepared, have well-defined expectations, and do all of this for their highest good. Perfect, right? Except I was miserable and the students were too. Lesson: Perfection makes no one happy.
Everything doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, nothing can be perfect. Choose joy over perfection. Give compassion to yourself. Relax and enjoy the people in your life as you release them from perfection too. Thank you, Nametria.
- Gave hospitality to Nametria
- Received hospitality from Diane
- Ryan received first Easter basket from Dodi
- Ryan received first Easter card and money from Aunt Lennie
- Getting clarity about a next step
- Walking with daughter and granddaughter
- Receiving affirmation from a friend about a financial decision