Choose Progress Over Perfection

Yet Another Year of Choices

By Barbara Dahlgren

Reading “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” in Matthew 5:48 reminds me of all my imperfections – which are many to be sure. The imperfection I hate most in my life is that I’m not perfect.

Those who struggle with perfection know too well the feeling of never really being good enough. We are like those children learning to write the alphabet for the first time who tear their papers up the second they see they have malformed a letter. It makes no difference that they made it to the “R” without a problem. If the “S” looks sloppy, then in the trash it goes. Instead of focusing on the progress made, they focus on their lack of perfection. Instead of looking at how far they’ve come, they lament about how far they need to go to achieve perfection. It can be very discouraging.

In psychological terms, perfectionism is the belief that perfection can and should be attained. When that belief transforms into thinking anything less than perfect is unacceptable, problems set in. Through a perfectionist’s eyes, a person’s self-worth is determined by flawlessness. Of course, ideas of perfection vary from person to person. Perfectionists set rigid standards of performance for themselves and sometimes for others. They never feel they “measure up” and neither does anyone else. Perfection is greatly overrated.

One of my favorite movie lines comes from Mary Poppins when she humorously replies, “We practically perfect people never make mistakes.” Poppins, like most everyone else, links perfection to lack of mistakes. Sometimes Christians make the same error in reading the Bible. Actually the word “perfect” in the above scripture in Greek is “telios” meaning finished, full grown, mature, lacking nothing, or brought to completeness. It has nothing to do with making mistakes or not being good enough.

People commonly think that all perfection is about physical actions such as being good, successful, or sinless. When God speaks of perfection, He wants us to “be complete” by being spiritually one with His Son Jesus Christ. This perfection is not designed to make us look good or perform flawlessly, but to let Christ’s life be manifest through us. Physical perfection is more concerned about actions we perform to a certain level, whereas spiritual perfection is about becoming totally dependent on God, letting Him work through us to perform His will – not ours. It is not concerned about “self.”

The good news is that we are already perfect in God’s sight. We are reconciled through Jesus Christ and He lives in us. This comes not from our false concepts of trying to attain perfection or being good enough. It is a gift given freely to us. With Christ in us, we are brought to completion and we lack nothing.

Consider this… Will we make mistakes? Sure. But a spiritually mature Christian tries not to make the same mistake twice. That’s progress!

One final thought…

Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.

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