I’ve been thinking a lot about perfection lately. Mostly because I have a son who is a perfectionist. In everything. To his outside observers it would seem that he’s the whole package – just what every mother wants in a son. But I’ve got the inside scoop, and I’m worried.
He has fits when everything doesn’t go just right. He grunts and grumbles and has angry outbursts when he can’t work a math problem. A couple of errant golf shots sometimes lead to a minor melt-down. He likes his room neat and tidy and every hair on his head in its proper place.
As I’ve been contemplating his latest blow-up, I’ve been wondering what I could tell him that might help. What can I do as his mother to help him get over his unrealistic expectations of himself? In the process of my morning musings, the phrase, “the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree” hit close to home.
I have my own problems with perfectionism. With unrealistic expectations of myself. With getting discouraged when my well laid plans don’t go like I’d like. With not allowing myself to feel happiness amid my own imperfections. Sigh. What have I found helpful in my own journey toward balance? What gives me encouragement and perspective?
For starters, it’s helpful to remind myself who gave the injunction to be perfect – the Lord. And I believe that he was talking about the BIG PICTURE – exaltation. We’re not ever going to be perfectly perfect in this life. That’s not an excuse to give up, to settle for mediocrity, to roll our eyes and attempt to endure to the end. I look at it this way. When the Lord asks me to do something, I’d better do it His way.
I’ll use food storage as an example. Ten years ago when we bought our first home, we could no longer use the excuse of “no space” to put off accumulating a year’s supply of food. Now remember, I’m an over-achiever. I did lots of research on food storage – how much to have, how to rotate it, the best ways to store it, ad infinitum. Everyone had a different opinion. County extention agents said to buy what you already eat. Other sources advocated freeze-dried goods. I was left in a quandary. Until I considered the source of the mandate to accumulate food storage. If the Lord wanted me to store food, then I’d better do it according to what His leaders said. (Note: The church had come out with modified food storage counsel. Check it out at ProvidentLiving.org -- http://www.providentliving.org/channel/0,11677,1706-1,00.html
I thought the myriad sources with advice on storing food were overwhelming. But what about all the various outlets that offer advice and counsel on living a perfect life? We get magazines full of tips on perfecting all sorts of things . . . golf games, home life, decorating, having fun as a family. Add in newspapers, television, music and movies. Podcasts and self-help books. Not to mention family members. It’s a wonder that we’re not all crippled with perfection paranoia.
But back to doing things that the Lord asks in the Lord’s way. I love Mosiah 4:27. It says, “And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that man should run faster than he has strength. And again, is it expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.”
When I’m feeling overwhelmed, it’s usually because I’m trying to run faster than I’m capable of, possibly doing things according to some worldly order instead of the Lord’s. Last week I had an opportunity to drive a friend to her doctor appointment in Salt Lake City. She suffers from firbromyalgia/chronic fatigue syndrome. And I mean suffers. During our some four plus hours together, she taught me a lot about pursuing perfection in the Lord’s way.
She told of wanting to see herself as the Lord sees her, wanting to know what his expectations were for her. After hours on her knees and more hours in quiet contemplation, she learned that the Lord wants her to be happy -- to experience gladness despite her health limitations. Nothing dramatic, but something definitely worth pursuing.
I guess it’s all about perspective. When I’ve got the BIG PICTURE in view, I feel encouraged and capable of accomplishing whatever the Lord requires of me. But when I remove the spiritual lens, I’m back to feeling inadequate. Is it any wonder that we’re counseled to read our scriptures daily? They help keep life in proper perspective. Ditto the temple. And church meetings. And family home evening. And especially prayer.
I guess that answers my question about how I can help my son. I can teach him that staying spiritually focused is the key to happiness, the only way to properly pursue perfection. Most importantly, I can show by example that like Paul, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13)