A common phrase we hear in many sports circles is “strive for perfection.” The goal is to execute the perfect play, or to have the perfect golf swing, or to make a perfect basketball free throw every time. Perfection can be, and sometimes is the only level of performance we accept. But if it’s carried to extremes, we develop a “perfection obsession.”
There is nothing wrong with setting excellence as a goal. But are excellence and perfection synonymous? Excellence defined is “the quality of being outstanding or extremely good.” Nothing in the definition indicates excellence is error free! So why do we associate the two together? And what damage to our society is being done by doing so?
Go to any little league baseball game anywhere during the summer and you’ll see the ugliness of perfection, or the insistence of it. Parents are yelling at their child through the chain-link fence because they’ve missed a grounder or a fly ball! And heaven help the umpire who makes a call that could have gone in favor of either team! Soccer games are no different. Physical altercations are commonplace at these venues, much to the amazement of the children on the field.
One more example of unachievable expectations manifested in human behavior can be seen at public forums. In all levels of our government, federal, state, and local levels, people can be seen applauding and jeering when a presenter, or even a public official’s character is attacked! While this situation is unfortunate for all involved, the loss of emotional control prevents the most simple logical decisions from being accomplished.
While we shake our heads at what we see in our society today concerning perfection, don’t think for a moment we have cornered the market in modern times. As long as humans are involved, excellence will be the victim of the perfection attitude.
An example of someone always taking the lead in actions, words, and thought is Simon Peter. He was called Cephas as well as Peter by Jesus, both translated as “Rock.” Rocks can be hard, solid, and larger ones can be difficult to move. This describes Peter’s personality, but not his actions. He was the one who stepped out of the boat and walked to Jesus on the water. But he let his emotions gain control and fear caused him to sink. He along with two other disciples saw Jesus transfigured on top of Mount Hermon, and immediately Peter took the lead on building shelters…..until the voice of God came from a cloud! Then Peter’s humanity kicked in and he fell to the ground hiding his face in fear.
It was fear that caused Peter to sink in the water. It was fear that caused him to fall face down on Mount Hermon. And it was fear that caused him to deny Jesus three times the night Jesus was arrested and tried. In spite of all of his humanness and shortcomings, Jesus still saw a strength in Peter. Before His ascension, Jesus restored Peter even after all his failures to His Lord.
Humanity was created in perfection. Adam and Eve let their humanness get in the way and they fell short of their intended perfection. But just like Jesus restored Peter, God will restore us every time we fall short. He knows we are human. And if you think of it this way, God has forgiven our sins through His Son, and therefore we are seen as perfect in the sight of our Heavenly Father.
Let’s not let our humanness get in the way of our worship to the one person who sees us in the perfection of His creation, nor loving our neighbors as we love ourselves!