(The following entry reflects on Bill Hybel’s message “Five Leadership Tests,” part one of the Expectant series. If you missed it or would like a refresher of it, both the video and the transcript are available to you.)
“...I think Jesus figured that Peter was special. Not perfect. Peter was never perfect. But he was special. He was usable. He was honest..."
Where does my perfectionism come from, then?
I have been tracking down this question.
...Or its answer, rather.
Hadn’t really gotten all too far.
And then I saw the phrase
...special. Not perfect.
So... special & perfect are not the same thing.
And it’s not that I thought otherwise. I just... hadn’t thought to think about it.
Then I did.
Of the years I’ve been alive, the first seventeen were not in the US.
Missionary parents and the lot.
We moved back to the area my dad grew up in on the threshold of my senior year of high school. (And I mean that literally. We arrived at some ungodly a.m. hour, slept a couple minutes, maybe seconds, and then rose again to be in school for its first day of fall semester.)
And when people hear that, the question becomes: “Did you have serious culture shock?”
My answer always has been: “No. It felt like coming home.”
And it did.
...But something happened, too.
When I was abroad, it seemed I was “unique.”
I sang. I spoke English. I spent class periods writing novels (I mean, taking really, really copious notes). And it felt to me as though those things about me were perceived. Appreciated. And encouraged.
That felt like enough to belong, in some way... as though I had a place for me that no one else could occupy.
...As much as I wondered what it might be like to have souls I could do the things with and “belong” in that way...
I suppose in the ideal of this, you can share passions and heart while remaining unique, seen, uneclipsed, indispensable. Belonging, fitting in, and being unique. At the same time. Fancy that.
But that’s... not instinctively the feeling that comes over you, then, is it?
When “unique” is no longer enough. Or even “true,” apparently.
So perfectionism. Maybe that became my coping mechanism. My subconscious coping mechanism. (I didn’t exactly sit down and decide this. Or, if I did, I forgot it. Conveniently.) It must’ve gone something like this. If I cannot be intrinsically unique, I’ll be unique by being perfect, because no one’s perfect, but I will be, so I’ll be unique, and I will have my place, because I won’t be trouble.
Perfect. Off to it, then.
Last week. Steve. Two words, two sorts. Stoics. Epicureans.
My brand of “perfect” aspirations went off and embraced the stoic “ideal,” it would seem. Something like... don’t make mistakes. Don’t ask for things. Don’t... emotions. And if you absolutely can’t get rid of the lot, at the least, for the love, do not show them in front of other people. Except for happy. Happy is good. Happy is great. Actually, if you can be (or, again, at least show) yourself elated (see: perfect) all the time, you will be worth relationship for others. You’ll feel safe to them. They’ll want for you to be around.
My rational brain knows perfectly well that this perfection thing is not a thing and I’m not going to be perfect if that’s not even a thing.
My other brain couldn’t care less about this knowledge. (What it lacks for in intelligence and rationality it goes off and makes up for with tenacity.)
Maybe a goal, some real ideal, is moving away from perfection... from the striving for it... and then... rediscovering special. This sort of special.
Is that all it is? Being grateful? Being honest?
Being usable (and worth relationship. and worth belonging.) for it?
It is a thought to think about.