Yesterday, for the first time, I accompanied my daughter to a Plastic Surgeon's office. She needed to have a cyst looked at. While we were waiting in the room she asked what the six clear, jelly-filled molds were. I explained what they were, she was disgusted. I also told her a story about when her sister was very young she asked, while watching some program on TV, if women could have them reduced as well. I told her that, yes, they could, and she then asked if that's what I had done. Lovely.
Anyway, this visit was quite nicely timed with my daily meditation series that I've been receiving via email by Richard Rohr. It's all about perfectionism. More specifically, how perfectionism defeats the soul and creates legalism and self-preoccupation. I was there. Friends who have known me for a long time know this. I still feel it sneaking up on me and need to flee from it, but at least I see it now. Yuk. Why do we so often worry about being better than others??
So, if Matthew 5:48 tells us to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect, how are we to do this? Well, the context is in regards to LOVING OUR ENEMIES! If we are suffering from the disease of perfectionism, we have made impossible demands on ourselves and others and end up with superiority, impatience, dismissiveness, and negative thinking... this defeats the soul Been there. Done that. Still do (hopefully, less).
I recently got away with my girlfriends from college and one of them asked me if I was even a Christian anymore because I had changed so much in my acceptance of others. I was torn in how to feel about that comment. I realizle it was a compliment because in the past year after having obtained my degree in Social Work and working through the spiritual depths of the Twelve Steps, I have discovered my weaknesses and embraced mercy. It has been in my discovering my need for mercy and grace that I have been able to extend that to others. But the other half of me was sad because I realized that the perception of Christians is often that they/we are judgy.
Rohr credits Therese of Lisieux for bringing the spirituality of imperfection into mainline Christianity. She embraced her sinfulness and surrendered herself to God's mercy... She let God's mercy be her perfection. When we accept the gifts of mercy and compassion and forgiveness from God because we know we desperately need them, we become whole - holy - perfect; and it is only then that we can love our enemies.
Thomas Merton (who I love so much right now!) writes about this, too. ... to be little, to be nothing, to rejoice in your imperfections, to be glad that you are not worthy of attention, that you are of no account in the universe. This is the only liberation Wow, so the dream of going to Hollywood and becoming famous isn't all it's cracked up to be? Yep. The more I puff myself up or take on roles of leadership and give myself a sense of superiority, the more bound I am. I've realized that I am only free when I go low. Just re-reading this quote helps me to relax and be overcome with a sense of peace because it is so much easier to live this way - falling, rather than striving. I am much more able to love others when I embrace my imperfections, which lead me into the Arms of Mercy, and allow me to be arms of mercy to others.
So, being perfect isn't really about what we look like. It's about how we love. And it starts with letting God love us - every part of us. Even our imperfections.