If you know me, you probably know I’m a pretty open person. I’m willing to talk about almost anything including some major hardships in my life. Perfectionism is probably something that I try to avoid talking about. Most likely because when I speak, I want to be understood perfectly. Perfectionism may seem like an interesting topic to choose for this particular prayerful reflection, but I think it aligned perfectly with what I’m going through currently and what the Lord is putting on my heart. Self-oriented perfectionism is having unrealistic expectations and standards for oneself that lead to perfectionistic motivation and behavior. This, is the perfectionism that I am speaking of.
Ever since I was a child, I have always had the desire to be perfect in everything that I did. In kindergarten, I even got sent out in the hallway because I was crying over a family picture that I didn’t want to mess up. In high school, I really started to care what people thought of me. I even ended up in an abusive relationship, and was worried what people would think or say about me if they found out what really happened in that relationship. Around this time, I started to see the true damage that the idea of forced self-oriented perfectionism could have on a person. I wanted everyone to think that my life was going great even when it was horrible. I think that everyone goes through some sort of struggle with this due to the pressure the world puts on your life through social media and social comparison. If you work hard enough to display an image of self-oriented perfection to everyone in your life, they won’t question whether or not your life is going well. They will just start to compare their life to yours based on the small snippet they see.
The more that I start to understand, self-oriented perfectionism, the more honest I want to be with people about the struggles that I deal with. Self-oriented perfectionists have high personal standards, expect to be perfect, and are very self-critical if they fail to meet these high expectations. I think it’s easy to put ourselves on a pedestal and forget the human element and the Christ-element. We need to always remember that we cannot compare our lives to others as we all have our own unique burdens to carry with us on our spiritual journey. Christ helps carry those burdens. Christ promised to help carry those burdens, and without him, we will fail carry them on our own.
Today, on this Easter Sunday, our second reading is as follows:
"Brothers and sisters: If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory."
- Reading 2 - COL 3:1-4
I know full well that I will never be perfect by the world's definition. No one, but Christ and his Mother, can be that definition of perfect, and that is okay. The world will tell you that if you’re not perfect, that you’re not worthy, and that is where discouragement sets in. In today's second reading, St. Paul tells us that if we "seek what is above...then (we) too will appear with him in Glory". That is the paradox. If we die to self, put Christ and his will before all else, then we will receive the perfection we seek here on earth. We will be in glory with the Lord, if we move through life, taking up our cross like Christ and seek him and his Father’s will constantly. Instead of self-oriented perfectionism, we are Christians and we must seek Christ-oriented perfectionism. This is the perfectionism found in the appearance of the Risen Lord.
If we seek the perfectionism found in Christ's glorified body, then we will be in glory with the Lord. If we faithfully move through life, taking up our cross like Christ, and seek him and his Father’s will constantly we will be perfected. If we continue to let the world's definition of perfect and other people’s definition of perfect define us, instead of seeking perfection in Christ, then we will never feel worthy enough in our lifetime. God's plan includes your eventually glorified and perfected body. The question becomes: Can we push away worldly discouragement found in self-oriented perfectionism and instead live the gospel of Christ-oriented perfectionism. God repeatedly tells us that we are perfect in his eyes. We are perfect to him because we are unique individuals that he created, and God doesn’t create anything that’s imperfect.
"He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself."
- Philippians 3:21