Tuesday, January 9, 2007

The Perfect Apple

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect - Matthew 5:48

I recently mentioned to a friend that my daughter sometimes had trouble with guilt, that she would get so angry and devastated if she did the smallest thing wrong, or especially if anyone tried to correct her, making a point of her mistake.

He immediately knew what was at the source and was able to tell me that she must have strong tendencies to be a perfectionist. She is. She gets straight A's in school, and now that he pointed this out to me I see it in many things. Now I am able to diffuse her guilt flare-ups better, knowing the cause, and I'm working on helping her see that it's ok to be human and make mistakes. Without making her feel guilty. Kinda tricky sometimes.

This matter of perfection can be a bit confusing. We are told we cannot be perfect, so don't be too hard on ourselves, but keep trying because we can do better and better.

I do see the problem with perfectionism, it can lead to suicidal tendancies. But I can also see the problem with "we can't be perfect, so why try?"

So I'll just say two things.

1) Perfection is an opportunity, not a requirement. The more we rise to the occasion and "go for it", as long as we see it as an opportunity to go farther, do more, share the wonders of our Creator more closely, we gain with every effort.

Like the gold medalist who gets a 9.5 instaed of a 10 as part of their score, they are still delivering their personal best.

2) Think of the perfect apple. It is just perfect, and as delicious as you can imagine. Now think of a "good" apple. Nothing wrong with a good apple - can eat them all day long and love them. So we could see perfection as "being our best", giving our efforts that little something extra in everything we do.

Point here being that short of perfection isn't "bad", just as a good apple is still good even if you don't declare it the perfect apple. And one "perfect apple" may be in fact better or worse than some other "perfect apple"

The matthew 5:48 reference should not be taken alone - it is a summation of a point jesus was making in Matthew 5:43-48.

43 "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'
44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?
47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?
48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

The greek word here for perfect is teleios
1. complete, perfect, entire, without spot or blemish. 2. of animals and men; full-grown, adult; hence, perfect in his or its kind. 3. of numbers, full, complete. 4. of actions, ended, finished; of vows, fulfilled, accomplished.

So then, in Matthew 5:43-48 the key thought is that following the bare requirements of the law is incomplete; to reach for perfection as God the father is perfect, we need to go the full measure, loving our friends as well as our enemies.

This call to perfection is not concerned with our private slip-ups or even indulgences. I only say this because almost everyone judges themselves and their progress toward perfection by these sort of things. Rather Jesus is focusing on what we do toward others and for others. It is much more important that we love and forgive all fellow men, and not judge those who make mistakes, than say, our personal struggle with calories.

For those perfectionists out there focusing on "lack of bad" rather than "full of good", it's worth considering for your guilt's sake.

The maturing of our love for our fellow man, as we become more christ-like, is akin to an apple "grown to perfection"

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Through a glass, darkly

Einstein is quoted as saying that "Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one." (I am having fun with the new quotes capability of ThoughtOffice). He may have been onto something there, as if you look hard enough you can find a few cracks in reality.

Take for example mirrors. Has it ever struck you as odd that a mirror always flips everything left to right? We are so used to it that we take it for granted. It never flips things top to bottom, only left to right. Even if you turn a mirror on it's side it still only flips things left to right!

People are startled when I reveal this to them and it's fun to watch as they try to come up with an explanation and they can't. Have fun with that, and if you enjoy brainy pursuits, have a play with ThoughtOffice 30 day demo. I am building the installers for the product, so I'm a bit of an "insider" :)