Seeking Perfection

small hand in elderly handMatthew 5:43-48 NRSV
Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

The Rev. Claire Wimbush was born with spastic cerebral palsy. Click here for her moving discussion of faith, perfection, brokenness, and the body of Christ. 

Brene Brown’s definition of perfectionism as found in her book Daring Greatly:

  • Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.
  • Perfectionism is self-destructive simply because perfection doesn’t exist. It’s an unattainable goal.
  • Perfectionism is more about perception than internal motivation, and there is no way to control perception, no matter how much time and energy we spend trying.
  • Perfectionism is addictive, because when we invariably do experience shame, judgment, and blame, we often believe it’s because we weren’t perfect enough. Rather than questioning the faulty logic of perfectionism, we become even more entrenched in our quest to look and do everything just right.
  • Perfectionism actually sets us up to feel shame, judgment, and blame, which then leads to even more shame and self-blame: “It’s my fault. I’m feeling this way because I’m not good enough.”

… If we want freedom from perfectionism, we have to make the long journey from “What will people think?” to “I am enough.” That journey begins with shame resilience, self-compassion, and owning our stories. To claim the truths about who we are, where we come from, what we believe, and the very imperfect nature of our lives, we have to be willing to give ourselves a break and appreciate the beauty of our cracks or imperfections. To be kinder and gentler with ourselves and each other. To talk to ourselves the same way we’d talk to someone we care about.

2 Corinthians 12:8-10 NRSV
Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

Perfection is not the elimination of imperfection, as we think. Divine perfection is, in  fact, the ability to recognize, forgive, and include imperfection! Just as God does with all of us. Only in this way can we find the beautiful and hidden wholeness of God underneath the passing human show. – Richard Rohr

If there is such a thing as human perfection, it seems to emerge precisely from how we handle the imperfection that is everywhere, especially our own. What a clever place for God to hide holiness, so that only the humble and earnest will find it!  A “perfect” person ends up being one who can consciously forgive and include imperfection rather than one who thinks he or she is totally above and beyond imperfection. – Richard Rohr

When either waiting or moving forward is done out of a spirit of union and surrender, we can trust that God will make good out of it—even if we are mistaken! It is not about being correct, it is about being connected.- Richard Rohr

God’s power is made perfect in weakness. When we finally surrender to the truth of our weakness, to our primal need for God and others, we open ourselves to the full presence and movement of God in our lives. The weak walls of pride and self sufficiency crumble so that something new and better may rise from the dust of that death. God reminds us of this in Jesus, who in his vulnerability and poverty most perfectly revealed the strength of God’s love and power. – Lisa Degrenia <><

As I make my way forward to the present, I begin to notice the detail in the painting. The strokes of the brush, fragments of the brush that got left behind in the paint and solidified and become a part of the chair over time. I ponder the definition of perfection and conclude that anything done with love and passion and an honest heart is perfect. My mother is no painter, and there are certainly flaws in the texture of the chairs, but this to me is perfect. I close my eyes and say a quick prayer of Thanksgiving.
– Stephen Remedios, A Tale of Six Cane Chairs

Where there is love and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance.
Where there is patience and humility, there is neither anger nor vexation.
Where there is poverty with joy, there is neither greed nor avarice.
Where there is peace and meditation, there is neither anxiety nor doubt.
Where the fear of the Lord stands guard, there the enemy finds no entry.
Where there is mercy and moderation, there is neither indulgence nor harshness.
Francis of Assisi, as quoted in
The Riches of Simplicity: Selected Writings of Francis and Clare

Prayer: Deliver me from me
Lord, into your hands I commend my spirit
Deliver me from evil and deliver me from me.
Amen.

*********
Prayer: Deliver me from me © 2013 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia.
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

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