Chelsea, or Mrs O as I like to call her, hosts a wonderfully eclectic blog offering an intelligent, but equally witty, take on her world. Whether it’s serialised fiction, terrible poetry contests or the trials and tribulations of motherhood she covers it all. In the post below she considers a word we all dread perfection.http://chelseaannowens.com
Have you ever worried about being perfect?
I have. I am what is known as a perfectionist, often in the most crippling sense of the word. Out of terror of error I will not consider thinking about the possibility of forming a plan to begin the process of outlining a project.
Not only that, but I stalk myself with a measuring stick of self-worth. Was this action flawless enough? Did I talk with that person well? Do I know where all of the socks in the house have gone? No matter what, I am never good enough.
I suspect that way of thinking is damaging yet I also see its prevalence in other people’s thinking. A friend of mine told me that she could never get her house to look perfect. Another said the same of her children. A third used the term when describing the management of her time. My last friend lamented the imperfect state of her appearance.
In my experience, this imperfection complex is really what perfectionism is about. It leads to a constant gray cloud of self-disappointment and a mental barrage of negative observations. It also accounts for the majority of my chocolate consumption …which only leads to more mean thoughts regarding my weight and self-control.
We are in obvious need of a re-definition of the word perfect.
Where did that insidious word come from, anyway? Does it really mean that something is without any mistake at all? Hasty internet research answers, “Yes.” Definition after definition cite phrases like “being entirely without flaw or defect (Mirriam-Webster)” and “excellent or complete beyond practical or theoretical improvement (dictionary.com).”
Even a religious perspective seems to add more gloom with passages like, “be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48).” Knowing I need to try to be as good as God is very intimidating.
How do we re-define all that? Simple. Let’s start at the very beginning: its root.
Perfect began as a marriage of per, meaning thorough or completely and facere, which is do. It meant that one is in the act of complete. I want everyone to think about that, because it is where we are going to take our new meaning of the word. Perfect was not intended to mean something finished, but something finishing.
Perfection is an ongoing process. It has to be. As writers we experience this, for there is always a point at which the book or story or poem needs to be published. An artist needs to allow the paint to dry so he may list his masterpiece for sale. Parents need to kick their nestling out into the world.
And in religion? I grew up in a religion that teaches of eternal progression. Our heavenly Father wants us to learn, grow, improve, and eventually achieve a glorified seat in heaven. Without grace, we cannot even get close -but why is there grace? Why are there not more scripture references to being “flawless” or “without blemish?”
It. is. because. that. is. not. perfect.
The Oxford dictionary, bless them, listed a definition to support this idea: “as good as it is possible to be.” Perfect, therefore, is the act of trying for constant betterment. It is mistakes we learn from and skills we improve upon and knowledge we continually acquire. It is an act and not a final state we cannot ever achieve because we are human.
Heck; in French, the word for perfect is a tasty layered dessert. Which form of perfect would you rather have?