Saturday, February 11, 2012


Too often, in my quest for perfection, I lose sight of reality.  I lose sight of the very real fact that mortality is neither designed, nor meant for perfection.  Life is most certainly a learning, growing process.  One that has improvement as it's objective, but, for me, at least, the failure to measure up to some real or imagined standard has been quite incapacitating.  My quest for perfection, quite often, overwhelms and then shuts me down.  How can that be what God had in mind?

As you can see, I'm exploring my own weakness here.  Not pointing fingers.

I think I understand the problem - in my head, but making that knowledge part of my ongoing behavior is a real struggle.

I understand that:
.... if men come unto me (God) I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
(Ether 12:27)
God intended for us to be imperfect beings with weakness.  Mortality with its imperfection is a gift.  It is God who does the strengthening.

I understand that as Moroni implies in that scripture, growing strong and overcoming that weakness is intended as a principal part of the process.
Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.
(3 Nephi 12:48)
I even think I get that too often I put the cart before the horse in that, acknowledging the gap between my current ability and my lofty goal of perfection; I strive to strengthen myself rather than seeking to humble myself as Moroni admonished.  He knew something that I tend overlook; the fact that long before I can be perfect in and of myself, I must be perfected in Christ.  Perfection can be achieved in no other way.
Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.
And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.
(Moroni 10:32, 33)
Clearly I must, through humility and through Grace, be first perfected in Christ, as provided by the Infinite Atonement, before I can ever hope for the power to actually live perfectly.  Perfection is all about Jesus, and the ability to live perfectly comes only in and through Him; if I choose to allow that most wonderful process to take place.  Seeking to perfect myself in any other way is utterly doomed to failure.

So, I suppose that what incapacitates me in my quest for perfection is my lack of humility.  I suspect, however, that there is another factor.  I think I have an unhealthy fear of making mistakes.  Partially born of impatience, but mostly born of pride; I don't want to appear anything less than perfect.  I want to get it right - right now!

When I was a boy my sisters took piano lessons.  I would flee the house when they practiced.  I couldn't bear to hear the same old songs and sour notes over and over again.  Later, when I had daughters of my own, I loved hearing them practice.  The sour notes didn't bother me for I knew they were a necessary part of the growth process.  No one becomes a great pianist without making sour notes.  And even when they master a piece and no longer make mistakes, the instructor advances them to a more difficult piece and the sour notes begin again.  I think the Savior feels the same way about my life.  Sure I'm going to make mistakes, they are a requirement of growth.  My tendency, though, is to project my former reaction onto Him rather than my latter.  Clearly that doesn't make sense.

Recently, I watched a video which took my piano lessons metaphor to a whole new level.  In it Brother Brad Wilcox pointed out the power of the Atonement in the process.  He explained that a mother pays for the piano lessons.  A debt that cannot really be repaid.  In doing so she enables her child to learn and grow at the keyboard.  The child can only take advantage of the gift if she practices and actually takes the lessons.  Likewise, Jesus paid for our opportunity to learn and grow and eventually become perfect.  We cannot repay Him, we can only do our best to take full advantage of this great Gift.

So, here we are to my problem.  I am so intent on being perfect, so impatient with the process and so pridefully embarrassed by my "sour notes" that I tend to abandon the key board of life and do nothing.  Certainly, that is not what God had in mind.  It becomes very apparent now, why pride is such an enormous problem.  Clearly the difference between perfection and perfectionism is pride.  For me the greatest promise, then, is:
28 And inasmuch as they were humble they might be made strong, and blessed from on high, and receive knowledge from time to time.  (Doctrine and Covenants 1:28)
Wow!  Here is the great advantage that comes of journaling (examining a problem on paper) - a new discovery!

In this context humility means joyfully sitting at the keyboard of life and playing my heart out - mistakes and all!  Joyfully taking full advantage of the price Jesus paid that I might do so.  Quite often even playing a duet with Him!

Robert Fulghum once reported a visit to a Kindergarten Class in which everyone thought of himself as a singer, dancer, athlete, artist and scholar.  He then visited a College Class in which no one felt inclined to make such claims.  Was pride the difference?  Had fear of humiliation kept them from humility?  Is this what is meant by the admonition to become as a little child?

Leonard Cohen wrote a song whose chorus inspires me:
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.
I want to ring my bells!  I hope you'll overlook my mistakes and I want to do the same for you.  There isn't time to shut down and tremble for fear of imperfection or we'll just be shutting out the light.  And, we'll hardly progress toward that perfect state we seek.

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