Friday, December 21, 2007

Seeking Growth, not Perfection

It all seemed so noble, so generous, and if I say so myself, it even seemed so saintly. "Reach for the top. Give it your best. Don't settle for your second best." The very rhetoric of my zeal to do my best, to be my best, sent fire surging through my veins. But the rhetoric betrayed reality . . . Nothing is ever perfect. My best was always flawed . . . I am a mistake maker. The human condition of trial and error is my condition . . . under all my sham pretence, I knew all along that I could never match my dreams with my performance. . . .

Perfectionism always has a downward spiral. It leaves us room only for failure. Nothing ever comes off exactly as we planned it. And the end result of such failure is discouragement. Very often our frustrated hopes degenerate gradually into a disappointed anger. We act out our discouragement or anger in obnoxious ways, but they are always buried in pretense. Others would never suspect . . .
The only real failure is the one from which we learn nothing.

-- S.J. Powell, "Happiness is an Inside Job

Christine's commentary: The most toxic aspect of equating performance with personal worth and loveability is what how it affects our relationship with God. Instead of perceiving God's love for us as absolute and unconditional, we try to hide our true selves from God and turn ourselves inside out striving to reach new heights of worthiness. Fear of failure becomes our obsession. We cannot take pleasure in our achievements because there is always another mountain to climb. If we do more than is expected of us, we experience a momentary thrill, followed by dismay because now more will be expected of us. We put out 110%, wonder whether we should be trying for 120%, and worry how long we can keep it up before everything falls apart.

Many people cannot begin to open themselves to God's love until they have crashed spectacularly.

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