I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to be perfect. Have you noticed? How am I doing? I’ve got some work to do, don’t I?  That’s how I used to live. I would approach life with the attitude – “What can I do today to become more perfect?” Honestly, I thought it was the right way to live. Striving for perfection and working harder and harder every day to get there was my purpose in life. Whether it be as a husband; as a father, as an employee; as a boss; as a friend; and yes, even as a baseball player! And I can tell you one thing about that lifestyle – it will keep you busy! And busy is good … right?  Then one day several years ago, when I was in my office at work having a “personal coaching” session on the telephone with a leadership coach based in Arizona that I had never met, my goal of achieving perfection was shaken to its foundation. The coach had simply asked me to take a few minutes and walk him through what my day was like at work as I interacted with staff and prepared assignments for my boss. When I was finished, my new coach said this: “Well, I think we’re done for today. Now I want you to go to your fax machine and pick up a one page document I am sending you, and we can talk about it next time.”  That was quick, I thought. But that’s ok, too – more time to strive for perfection! But when I got to the fax machine, waiting for me was a document that changed the way I felt about myself and my lifestyle. The document was called: “Perfection vs. Excellence,” and this is what is said:

  • Perfection is being right – but Excellence is willing to be wrong.
  • Perfection is fear – but Excellence is willing to take risks.
  • Perfection is control – but Excellence is spontaneity.
  • Perfection is judgment – but Excellence is acceptance. 
  • Perfection is doubt – but Excellence is confidence.
  • Perfection is pressure – But Excellence is natural.
  • Perfection is focusing on the destination – but Excellence is enjoying the journey. 

That’s all it said. But that was enough … at least to get me started. My illusion that I could be, and should be, pefect was challenged. When I saw all those attributes of perfectionism on that paper, it was a pretty close description of my own lifestyle: needing to be right; afraid of not being good enough; needing to control everyone and everything; enjoying my role as judge of other people; living in a cloud of doubt about myself; constantly under pressure to please people and do better; and always focused on the outcome – totally missing the joys of every day life.  The diagnosis by my personal coach was clear: I was a perfectionist. And I knew that it was destroying me, and eventually would kill me.  That was the beginning of my journey to Jesus. It took many years and many hard lessons learned to understand that I am not perfect, and never will be – but that Jesus is perfect and always will be! Indeed, He is perfect so that I don’t have to be. Instead: I can be wrong; I can take risks that fail; I can be spontaneous and screw up; I can accept myself – and others, just as we are; I can be confident and natural without changing a thing; and most important, I can find joy and wonder in each and every day.  All of this is true because I am NOT perfect! Jesus has given me the freedom to be myself in the world … just as I am! And I am fine with that. In case you haven’t noticed, I still make a lot of mistakes, and I still get many things wrong, and I still lose my way and get scared or angry. Basically, I’m just a stumbling bumbling idiot who is saved by the grace of my Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. And thanks to him being perfect, and making the perfect sacrifice just for me. I can be just who I am … just as God created to be … and that’s just fine with me today!  Recovering perfectionist, I am, Pastor <>< Bob