Perfection and Failure

I remember the year that I decided my New Year’s resolution would be something wild and crazy - commit to healthy eating. No sugar. A lot of lettuce and sprouts. We spent New Year’s Eve at the beach with our friends and headed home mid-day on January 1st. Pete, who had no such delusions regarding his eating habits, had a two pound bag of M&M’s sitting between us in the front console. Mindlessly, I munched away. Then I remembered - Oh, no! My New Year’s resolution is RUINED!! I guess there is no hope for change.

I probably ate 20 M&M’s - which was enough to convince me that the year was blown. This kind of all-or-nothing thinking is the hallmark of perfectionism. It is destructive. It is a set up. It serves as a simple and extremely effective strategy for not actually having to DO, COMMIT, CHANGE.

Should we just give up? Heck no! We can work at improving. We can give up on the lie that we are what we do - especially if other people notice and praise us for our excellence. Healthy efforts to change are NOT about performance or perfecting. What is it about?

1. Evaluate self without tying it to what other people think.

2. Ask the question: How can I make progress toward my goal?

Scott told a story in a recent message about an experiment where folks were given the instruction to figure out how to get everything on the table mounted to the wall (candles/matches/box of thumb tacks). One group was told that time was not a factor; take as much time as you needed. The second group was instructed to go as fast as they could in order to win a prize. Which group was quicker? Group one.

Performance pressures decrease our abilities. Stress reduces our dexterity, our creativity, our ability to perform. Perfectionism is not helpful for becoming more successful. Good enough is an attitude that creates more success. The pressure to be the best inevitably reduces our chances of being #1.

Perfectionism is the enemy of transformation. It’s a tiny god that demands feeding but gives nothing in return but shame and guilt. How can we encourage self-compassion and a commitment to growth? One way is to find a way to encourage empathy even as we join together in daring to dream that we can be and do better at bearing the image of God.