Perfection, a blessing or a curse?
Over the past few weeks I have come across many different thought producing messages that promote a pursuit of perfection. Whether it be in playing a musical instrument, doing a math problem or acting like a Christian we all receive challenges to improve who we are and what we do. This demand can cause stress, sometimes a healthy stress, sometimes a not so healthy stress. So, what should we expect from ourselves?
The answer might best be explained in asking this question: What if we don’t strive for perfection?
- In music, we strive for perfection because music resonates with our being. Music can connect to our inner self, both in playing and in listening to music. A recording studio cuts hundreds of takes to make a song worthy of production. And so, when does that expectation of perfect music playing / performing begin? When talking to a music teacher, they will tell you that it is important to practice, practice, practice right away so that good habits will be formed and so that the performer can be the best they can be. What happens if you fail? At worst, it is a feeling of embarrassment that might come when performing, or it could be letting those down who play with you when they are counting on you. Is it important to be perfect? It depends on the situation. Is it “life important”? Probably not.
- In mathematics, perfection is summed up in finding the correct answer. Mathematics is an objective language that is either right or wrong. A mathematician solves problems to find that one “right answer”. Is perfection required? That depends. When it comes to engineering, computing, calibration, mechanical precision, etc. we demand perfection. A mathematical error can be humanly catastrophic. So, is it in important to be perfect? In some realms, yes. As a society we certainly do expect it. As a school, we strive for our students to be precise, to do their work neatly and to strive for the best. Is it important to be perfect? Sometimes, if it is “life important”.
- In our Christian life, do we strive for perfection? What evidence is there that we are striving for perfection? And, should we strive for perfection? Well, I would say YES! Jesus is our perfect model for how to live, and He told us, “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” (Matthew 5:48). We are called to imitate Christ and again we are told, “All that is His is Yours!” In the Beatitudes Jesus invites us to purify our hearts and to seek the love of God above all else. True perfect happiness is found In God Alone! Can we expect to be perfect? Of course not. As Jesus proclaimed in the gospel, “I did not come to call the righteous, I came to call sinners.” Yet, is it important for us to strive to be perfect in our Christian life? Yes! Is it “life important”? Yes, “eternal life important”!
So, is the call to be perfect a blessing or a curse? It is both. Thankfully, in our Christian life, we have been given the beautiful sacrament of Reconciliation, through which we receive the sacramental grace to be healed from our imperfection and then we are called towards becoming a more perfect version of self. “And I have given them the glory you gave me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17:22-23)