Today I thought I would give you some thoughts on "perfection" or "perfectionism." I should warn you right from the start that I believe perfection is unattainable in this life, and that perfectionism (as an overall life-principle) is the cause of much despair, frustration and joylessness in the lives of people.
I have had to encourage many a despairing person to either lower their perfectionistic standards, or accept the fact that they will never experience joy, since setting absurdly high standards of perfection always causes us to see only the flaws, or mistakes, or the things that need to be fixed (whether it be in us, or the things we do, or in others, or the things they do). Perfectionists do not tend to be happy campers. I speak as a recovering perfectionist myself, who would have to agree with Hugh Prather when he said: "Perfectionism is slow death.”
If I understand the Bible correctly, since the fall of man perfection has walked the face of the earth once and only once, and that was in the person of Jesus. All others "have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." We are to grow and mature and pursue Christlikeness, but we will never even approach attaining such perfection in this life (I John 1:8-9). In fact, coming to admit our imperfections, as well as our inability to ever reach perfection in this life, is the first step on the path to salvation, and one of the main steps in the process of sanctification.
We can miss the purpose of Christ's perfection if we think it is only an example or ideal for us to pursue. Richard Sibbes, the great Puritan divine, put it so well when he once wrote: "What is the Gospel itself but a merciful moderation, in which Christ's obedience is esteemed ours, and our sins laid upon Him; wherein God, from being our judge, becomes our Father, pardoning our sins and accepting our obedience, though feeble and blemished... The law requires personal, perpetual, and perfect obedience... but under the covenant of grace it must have an evangelical mitigation. A sincere endeavor proportionable to grace is received and accepted." Jesus lived our perfection for us, and God counts His perfection as if it were ours if we will only trust in Him. That's the wonder of the Gospel.
The following thoughts, taken from many sources, offer many varied insights into the quest for human perfection. Enjoy.
"This is the very perfection of a man -- to find out his own imperfections... If you should say, 'It is enough, I have reached perfection,' all is lost, since it is the function of perfection to make one know one's own imperfections. ”
and looking for it where they will never find it.”
"It is right to be contented with what we have, but never with what we are."
Sir James Mackintosh
"The search for perfection begins with detecting imperfection.”
"Aim at perfection in everything, though in most things it is unattainable. However, they who aim at it, and persevere, will come much nearer to it than those whose laziness and despondency make them give it up as unattainable.”
"Ideals are like the stars -- we never reach them, but like the mariners of old traversing the sea
we chart our course by them."
"The biblical demand for perfection (under the law) was meant to drive us away from looking to ourselves for salvation and lead us right into the arms of Jesus."
With hope that you will find your resting place there, Pastor Jeff