The Vanity of Striving for Perfection

pexels-photo-515169.jpeg“There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil.  This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?  For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God.  This also is vanity and a striving after the wind.”     ~Ecclesiastes 2:24-26

I am the type of person that is tempted to strive for perfection.  When I was a kid, my parents taught me that “anything worth doing, is worth doing well.”  I remember in grade school crumpling up paper after paper because my handwriting on my assignments wasn’t good enough.  I would stay up until 9 or 10pm as a 4th grader doing homework because of starting over and over again to have the perfect writing.

Clearly, I took my parent’s teaching to an unhealthy extreme.

Fortunately, my teacher had the wisdom to intervene and work with my parents to help me develop less perfectionist tendencies.  (Thank you, Mrs. Waller. :0)  But, I still catch myself at times- especially now that I am teaching my own kids.  There is a fine line between pushing kids to do their best and pushing them to be perfectionists.  I have had to clarify with my kids many times that I don’t expect their work to be perfect (whether it’s school work, completing chores, etc.), but I do expect them to give their best effort.

But what about as adults?  How does the pursuit of perfection affect our marriages and parent/child relationships?  What about as homeschooling parents?  How does this striving for perfection affect us?  Are we constantly looking for the perfect curriculum?  Are we exasperating our family because they can never please us?  I have to be honest here- I fall into this camp way more than I care to admit.

So much of this is a heart issue.  Who am I trying to please?  Is my happiness tied into having a perfectly clean house or a child with straight A’s?  Have a made an idol of having a perfect marriage, the perfectly behaved child, or the perfect look?  Am I trying to get people to like me by appearing a certain way?  Or am I trying to earn God’s love by having it all together?

The above verses from Ecclesiastes speak of work being a joy- whether our job, our chores, our schoolwork, etc.  If we are striving for perfection, it’s awful hard to have joy because that perfection is always a little (or a lot) out of reach.  God is the only One who is perfect.  And though He holds His children to a higher standard (“…but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct…” ~1 Peter 1:15), He knows full well that we cannot attain perfection.  If we could, we would not be in need of a Savior.  But the fact that “He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16)”, proves that perfection is not a possibility for our sinful natures.  It is a gift from God to have joy in our work, whatever that looks like at whatever age you find yourself.  Perfection is a lie.  It is vanity.

Vanity= “excessive pride in or admiration of one’s own appearance or achievements.”                                                 ~Google dictionary

The point?  Rather than striving for perfection in our appearance, our work, our family, our home…. rather than trying to give the impression that we have it all together when we really don’t…. rather than trying to impress others and impress God with how great we are, let’s admit the truth: we desperately need Him to save us from our complete inability to get it all right and hold it all together.

Colossians 3:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.  You are serving the Lord Christ.”  Rather than striving for unatainable perfection, let’s strive to give our very best efforts as an offering of love to the Lord.  God just wants our best.  Not perfection.  Just the best we can do.  And if we’re honest, most of us don’t give God our best.  We don’t do the best we can at our workplace.  We don’t do the best we can in loving on our families.  We don’t do the best we can in serving the Body of Christ.  The majority of us just give God our leftovers.  Or our Sundays.  We give Him a part of us or what’s conveinent to give, but the rest of life is “ours.”

But our leftovers is NOT what God wants from us.  EVERYTHING we do, everything we call work (whether a career, yard work, housekeeping, staying at home with kids, teaching our kids at home, etc.)- it is all an opportunity to offer ourselves in love to God by doing the best quality work we can do in that moment.   And what that looks like is between you and the LORD, and may vary from day to day, depending on what is going on in your life during that season.

In conclusion, let us not strive for the illusion of perfection.  Let us work heartily unto the Lord as an act of love to Him, and enjoy the good gift of work He has put before us.  If you don’t enjoy your work, ask yourself why and ask the Lord to help you.  He will.  It’s in His good nature to listen to our prayers and answer our pleas for help.

May God bless you as you seek to do life deliberately!

~Trisha

p.s. for more homeschool helps and encouragement, please visit my YouTube channel, Doing Life Deliberately.