Anne LaMotte once wrote, “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor.” I’ve always been a perfectionist which served me well when I was a freelance violinist/violist. If I missed a note, it often meant I wouldn’t be asked to play again so I had to be perfect. Well, that’s what I thought but I took it too far. In addition, when I was a pastor, every time I led worship I let the oppressor take over. Worship wasn’t about me (and isn’t about any worship leader) but rather about God.
This afternoon I studied the biblical concept of perfection by using Stan Saunders’ 2010 commentary Preaching Matthew.* In Matthew 5:48 Jesus is quoted, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” At face value, that certainly is a tall order. However the word really means completeness or even wholeness. Jesus is saying, “Be whole like my Father is whole.” This puts a different slant on the concept of perfection.
I’ve been working on my flutter kick when I swim. I took swim lessons at the Y two years ago but since I had hand surgery, I’ve had to be careful not to use my hand too much. Lately I’ve wanted to work on my stroke beginning with the kick. Doing it the correct way is harder in the short run but just like my violin in order to get better at it, I must practice. When I was in the pool this afternoon, I could feel my perfectionism surface which is why I wanted to look at the word again. I knew it meant completeness but reading Stan’s words helped me see my swimming (and gardening etc.) differently.
The oppressor wants me to give up but I’m not going to listen to that voice. I like to swim and I want to get better. I’m trying not to compare myself to others but it is hard. I see someone swimming in another lane that is faster than I am and the voice of the oppressor rings in my ear, “You have to get better after all everyone is watching you and thinking about what you’re doing.” Of course this isn’t true. No one pays any attention to me and it wouldn’t matter if they did for I’m not in any competition. If my swimming improves, I will feel whole. This is what is important.
*I trust Stan but I still needed to check out the words using a Strong’s concordance which translates the words from Greek or Hebrew into English. I took a year of Greek at Central Baptist Seminary and had to pass a Greek exegesis exam for ordination but I am no Greek scholar so I try to read scholars I trust.