Our society is perpetually dissatisfied as our perfection-seeking culture anxiously attempts to surface and expose any and every identifiable flaw in our lives and then over ambitiously attempts to remedy all of our defects by urging us to buy into the next new thing. This “path to perfection” will supposedly deliver us from the darkness of our imperfections (AKA eating white bread) and lead us to the light (AKA whole grain bread).
I’m sorry to say it, but we have romanticized what it takes to remedy our flaws…and it’s getting worse. We’re to the point now that we genuinely believe that we might possibly die without the $9.00 whole grain bread with natural oats and honey harvested on the farm down the street.
(Rock on if you buy the $9 bread….especially if it’s from the farm down the street! Please just don’t believe that you’ll die without it!)
Ubiquitous access to information has increased our awareness of ideas that would have otherwise been irrelevant to us, and awakened within us our longing for perfection and our need to understand and control anything that we have any influence over.
The age of information has put us hard to work. It entices our desire to know more, to see more, to do more, and to be more. It’s exhausting to keep up….isn’t it?
What is this romantic relationship we have with perfection?
Well…it’s natural. The opposite is to be flawed or with defect.
Who wants that?
Plus….isn’t it a good thing to strive to improve and to become strong where we are weak?
So what’s the issue?
The issue is that just as romance is not all that a relationship requires in order to be successful and fulfilling, these temporary remedies or self-improvements will not satisfy in the long run either. Right around the corner, another enticing opportunity to perfect just one more thing in our life awaits us, and as soon as we decide that it is attractive, it starts to feel somewhat necessary. The sad part is that the cycle ensues and until we obtain it or accomplish it, we feel the same perpetual sense of dissatisfaction as we did with the last.
It’s the infatuation with the quick fixes of this world that lead us to believe that if we just do X or Y we will be a little closer to perfection tomorrow than we were today.
Furthermore, I posit that there is another dynamic contributor that keeps us in this relationship with perfection.
As is true with many unhealthy romantic relationships, we stay in them out of fear. Fear of being alone. Fear of hurting someone. Fear of not finding the right person. Fear of letting go of something that could have worked.
Fear of our own weaknesses and inability to fully protect ourselves from harm is then expressed in the exhausting effort to do everything “right”. We long for order and want to just get one more thing done so that we can feel a little better about life.
Career, family, friends, home, health and faith are all competing for our attention and we are often disappointed with some aspect of each one of them.
Now, we must realize, our good intentions to advance and develop the areas of our lives that fall short are not wrong. In fact, we engage in a worthy effort, but it is quite an exhausting task when our contentment lies within the success of our endeavors.
We must live in this tension always.
It’s a battle.
The undeniable desires to not be so flawed, to fix our defects, and to make choices that will protect us from harm and disappointment…
…go head to head with…
…the remarkable inability to reach that moment in life when all things are in order and we feel fully satisfied without fear of incumbent danger, failure or distress.
So is there anything we can do about this condition?
(Oops! There we go again…trying to remedy the flaws and eliminate the defects.)
The way to manage this conflict and navigate the romance that we have with perfection is to realize that it will never satisfy and there are no quick fixes. We will forever be thirsty and none of these things will quench our thirst.
We can buy $9 bread, remodel our homes, request a raise, hope for the perfect relationship, have well-behaved children, start an exercise program, or invest for the future until we’re blue in the face; but none of these things will adequately meet all of our needs or fulfill all of our desires.
Our life is like a race…it is not like a fling.
The most fundamental truth about this race we call life is that a race is not intended to be run aimlessly.
It is purposeful.
We did not choose to make our entrance into this world, and we have no say as to when we make our exit. This humbling reality reminds us that for whatever reason we have this opportunity to participate in something that is mysteriously beyond our control.
We must not be careless about how we run this race or why we run it.
Surely we run for a purpose beyond ab-tightening Pilates and fruit bowls stocked with organic bananas. Is there a purpose beyond simply trimmer waists and fatter wallets?
In all of that we do during this race, our eye must be on the prize. If our eye is on the tantalizing distractions on the sidelines, we will not finish the race well. If we are deceived to believe that perfecting the details of our life will somehow catapult us to the finish line, we have trivialized our purpose and diminished the opportunity to fully claim the life that we are here to live.
It behooves us to look beyond the temporary rendezvous that leaves us empty and wanting more. Instead of romanticizing the quick fixes that will inevitably let us down, let’s recognize that there is more to life than $9.00 bread and home improvements. Once the race is done, will these things live up to the hype?
What’s the endgame of your race? Find the answer … and then run with all your might – imperfections and all.