Sunday, April 10, 2011

Perfectly Imperfect

“So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5: 48

Jesus can be tough sometimes can’t He? I mean, He doesn’t give any leeway here, does He? He calls us to be perfect like God the Father. Jesus doesn’t give us any slack. He doesn’t afford us the option of slacking off in our spiritual lives. He doesn’t say we can be easy on ourselves. And so as His followers trying to obey Him and imitate Him and heed His words and His commands, we strive for perfection…and fail miserably.  But then what happens?

Well, in my experience, people do one of two things: they either become slaves to perfectionism, locked in a daily struggle of grief and anger, spending all of their time judging themselves and others harshly until they become like Pharisees, living only for the letter of the law. These people think they have to achieve perfection from within.

Or they give up and don’t even try anymore. Because the more they try and fail, the more they feel guilty. And so instead of continuing in this vicious cycle of failure and guilt, they stop trying and they don’t have to feel guilty. But in the end people who take this route become even more isolated and bitter then the people who become perfectionists, because these people have decided that they can’t live a life of greatness and instead settle for far less than what they were created for. These people fail to see the mercy of God.

I think most of us have probably dabbled in both of these extremes from one time to another in our lives. But doesn’t Jesus’ call to perfection have to end in one of these two ways? How else are we to deal with something that we are called to be that is impossible to become?

The solution to both extremes is the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Going to this sacrament of mercy on a regular basis guards us from either giving up or becoming perfectionists. Those tempted to perfectionism will be reminded that the source of their power and strength comes from God, not from themselves. They will also be reminded to be easy on others and will receive the insights (especially from a regular confessor) to know when they are being too hard on themselves as well. For those who are tempted to give up completely, the sacrament allows them to be assured of God’s mercy and their guilt is removed so they can live in peace while still continuing to strive for that perfection Jesus calls us to.

With the remaining days of this Lenten season, why not head to the confessional and receive God’s mercy? Let go of the unrealistic expectations of perfectionism and the lifeless cycle of failure and guilt that tempts you to give up on trying for holiness. Allow God’s healing grace to wash over you and guard your heart, so that you can strive for perfection from a place of balance and peace.

Dear Jesus, I want to be perfect as the Father is perfect. Grant me the grace to accept when I fail and return to You in the sacrament of mercy so that I do not become a perfectionist or give up entirely. Amen.

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