Posted on by Jeff Raught

I had a friend recently write to me about the struggle of perfection or rather not attaining it. I am glad to call him a friend and well, neither one of us is perfect. Yet his words made me think about how many of us struggle with this idea of getting every single thing right, every single time, in every single situation. He has inspired these thoughts.

There is a whole performance/presentation aspect to most anything that we do that is public and in front of people. I’ve been in front of people since I was about 2 years old. And while it’s not exactly the same when you are 5 as when you are 50, you are still putting yourself out there. People sit in an audience or group and listen to your thoughts of what you have prepared. That might be a teaching, a song, a workshop…whatever the case may be. But you are putting out there what was once a private individual thing. There is the quietness of preparation. Sitting at the desk, computer, bible, piano, guitar, easel, there is no one there but you and the work before you. It is very internal and makes a LOT of sense in that time and space. It can also be beautiful and daunting at times. But there is not much outside influence.

The big change happens when it becomes the presentation. It’s uncovered, sometimes raw and even if its’ a “finished” work, this is the first time you see reaction from others…..both good and not so good. And sometimes we ourselves see the flaws that were somehow not apparent the day before. Topping it off is all the emotion that is now tied to it. Not only has the work been uncovered, but so has the creator of this work. And so welcome or not, the critiquing starts. And that can be tough to absorb.

I use the word absorb because if feels like that’s what is expected of us as presenters & artists. We seemingly are wearing a big giant sponge and any words tossed our way, we are supposed to just let it bounce off, or suck it up. But you see a sponge has a lot of openings and holes and more gets through than you might think. Or it gets heavy laden and just hangs on us because we forget to take it off.

After the fact there is a natural tendency to say of someone’s work, “oh you should do this!”…..About our own it can be “Oh s#*!…. I really screwed that up” When it happens in the middle of it all, the mind starts racing….. sweat…… the thoughts of “I sound like an idiot” ……the people staring at you with a blank stare or worse….engaging in conversation because you don’t seem interesting enough…… IT’S A LOT TO DEAL WITH.

If you have raised the bar so high to what you think is perfection, it becomes even more frustrating. The bar is set at 8’….the highest I have ever jumped is 6’5″…..I try and jump and all I do is smack my head on the bar, causing it to fall. Or I miss completely, landing in a crumpled heap knowing that EVERYONE just saw how badly I missed.

None of this is to say we don’t keep trying to do things better. But long before we jump, we need to look at our footing, our launch point. What have we done, long before we take off running. But if we miss or land badly, that does not mean it’s all over.

Recently there was the whole thing about the missed umpire call that didn’t allow the pitcher to receive the statistic of a perfect game. Everybody was up in arms about reversing the call….. putting an asterisk in the record book. The truth is the way the umpire and pitcher responded to the mistake was much closer to perfection than what happened during those 9 innings of the game.

Even instant replay does not allow us to go back and do it over. We just see a recorded version of the event. In some sports we change or reverse the call, but that’s not evidence of perfection, that’s just changing it to something that’s agreeable. Does the pitcher throw a strike for every single pitch? Not likely. If none of the batters ever hit the ball, it’s not a perfect game for them. If every batter gets a hit every time they are up, is that a perfect game for the offense? Well the team in the field won’t think so.

These are all very public ways in which we see the flaws in our quest for perfection. The private interactions we have in relationships is not all that different, it’s just that not as many people see it. But we all experience the knee-jerk reaction to something somebody says or writes. The comment sections of blogs are full of imperfect scrutinizing. And probably not a day goes by we don’t recall an experience that was less than flattering in how we handled something.

It’s a reminder that perfection is really not attainable for us on our own. But don’t remove the bar or set it so low that it becomes not even worth the effort. Regroup, prepare differently, and reflect on your past attempt. Just don’t sit and look at the bar and think, well, that’s it. I quit.

I recognize and embrace that there is something far beyond the reaching of my own understanding of what perfection is. For me that has long been my faith in the everlasting life of Jesus. When I look up perfection, it’s Jesus that I see. For I by myself am a desperately flawed person. From the stumbling words that spill out of my mouth, to the short-legged, round body, odd hairline, thick-necked, creature that is I just walking on the planet. Even with all those self-perceived shortcomings, God loves me for who I am, and desires that I become more of what God intended. Slower to judge, kinder with words, and a little more gracious about giving myself a break when I stumble. That at least is a step towards perfection, and perhaps one I can live with.

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