Last week I wrote about winning your biggest battle, and gave you an example of how one person did this. I promised to give you some things to watch out for. Here they are.
One of the most insidiously dangerous developments in our lives is the compulsion to perfection.
This usually begins with the perception that the more perfect we are the more people will love and admire us. It does not seem to matter that the very premise of this perception is untrue. People will first admire, but finally fear a person who appears to be perfect.
The compulsion to perfection has an illusion at each end. It is an illusion to think that people will love you more if you are perfect; and it is an illusion to believe that it is possible to be perfect.
Let me comment on each of these illusions. How many people do you know who are perfect, or think they are perfect? Are they people in whose presence you feel safe? I don’t know about your experience with "perfect people," but mine is not very good. I really do not enjoy the company of "perfect people." If you were able to achieve some degree of perfection, your friends would distance themselves from you in direct proportion to the perceived perfection. Who were the "perfect people" in Jesus’ day? The Pharisees. Jesus did not like them. They did not like Jesus. Their pride of perfection was a barrier. Beware of the illusion of perfection. It is a real trap.
People who have a compulsion to be perfect sooner or later begin to "fudge" when their performance does not measure up to their expectations. We begin to lie to ourselves and to others. We all suffer some from wanting to appear better than we are. We put up some kind of front that leads others to think we have it "all together" when in reality we have some fundamental fragmentation. Sometimes we become so good at misrepresenting ourselves to others that we can literally fall apart before the people around us realize what is going on.
British physician, John Abernathy, recalled seeing a patient suffering depression. After a thorough examination indicated no apparent physical problem, Dr. Abernathy said to the patient: "You need amusement. Go hear the comedian, Grimaldi. He will make you laugh, and that will be better for you than any drugs." The patient said to Dr. Abernathy: "I am Grimaldi!!" Can you hear that? The fact that an outwardly successful person may have serious inner difficulties is dramatically illustrated in a poem by E. A. Robinson.
Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.
And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
"Good morning," and he glittered when he walked.
And he was rich – yes, richer than a king –
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.
So on we worked and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.
The battle within is the battle to forgive ourselves for not being perfect and to expect others to forgive us also. It is an internal battle based on our attitude toward ourselves much more than upon what others think or expect of us.
There is more – next week. Stay tuned again.