What does perfection mean? And what is the difference between being perfect, a perfectionist, or perfectionism?
Perfect – entirely without any flaws, defects, or shortcomings (Dictionary.com)
Perfect – flawless, accurate, correct (Thesaurus.com)
Back when I looked up the definition of abandonment, I came up with a group of negative words that no one would want to be associated with. But in the case of perfection, everyone wants to be associated with it in some way. Perfection means that you are accepted, and to a greater extent, it means that you not only belong, you are better than your neighbor, better than that person who is different from you, better than the person who, for example, keeps a junky house (so you are definitely better than me).
The fact is that this idea of perfection comes from many different sources and manifests in many different places in our lives. It’s this idea that your best is not good enough. It’s when you can’t celebrate the small accomplishments because you always feel you could be doing something better. It’s when you feel that you really haven’t accomplished much…or anything for that matter.
Oddly enough, the definition of a perfectionist says nothing about being perfect:
Perfectionist – a person who strives for or demands the highest standards of excellence in work, etc. (Dictionary.com)
So basically a perfectionist does his or her best. But I think that in my journey, “my best” has often been overshadowed by my own warped thinking. I have set high standards, which there is nothing wrong with this, but at the same time, those standards have to be realistic. There will be mistakes. There will be times that things will not turn out the way I planned. There will be times when things are not perfect. I am not perfect. If you are a believer in a Higher Power, there is only one essence of perfection, the perfect Spirit of God. And this brings me to the next definition:
Perfectionism – 1. any of various doctrines holding that religious, moral, social, or political perfection is attainable.
2. a personal standard, attitude, or philosophy that demands perfection and rejects anything less. (Dictionary.com)
So this is where we get into trouble. One thing that all of these “P” words have in common is the fact that they are not achievable by human beings. The idea that we will always do everything right is a false belief and as the beloved Apostle of Love, John put it, “we deceive ourselves.” (See 1 John 1 and 2)
Demanding perfection in any area of our lives will make disappointment inevitable and prevents us from living with true Joy.