Few things can short-circuit your effort to live fully alive as much as the fear of failure. This fear will affect your ability to get in shape physically, it will keep you from trying new things, stop you from taking risks, impede living out your faith and keep you from enjoying life. Fear will also negatively influence every relationship you have.
All this fear leads to a disease called “perfectionism.”
Perfectionists are miserable human beings. I ought to know. I’m a recovering perfectionist, “one who fears failure.” That doesn’t mean I was ever perfect, it means I spent much of my time feeling like a failure because nothing I did was perfect. Rarely did I finish a project. I painted pictures no one ever saw, I wrote letters I never sent, and I planned trips I never took. If I couldn’t do it to perfection, I gave up. And I certainly wasn’t willing to make any imperfect projects public.
In my mind, imperfection was failure.
In reality, imperfection and failure are a part of life.
K. Chesterton said, “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” Chesterton wasn’t encouraging mediocrity, he was alerting his audience to an important truth: If you wait to do something until you have it perfect, you will never do it.
Give it your best shot now. Learn from your mistakes and then do it better the next time. That’s called growth. If I still operated as a perfectionist you would never see “Fully Alive” the book I have just finished. Someone would find me slumped over the computer thirty years from now, unwilling to release the manuscript because it wasn’t perfect yet. But, I gave the book my very best. It is not perfect but it will change lives.
My pastor hit the nail on the head last Sunday when he said, “If you are looking for a church with perfect people you will never find one. And if you do find one don’t join it. You’ll ruin it!” The same can be said for every office, every family, every organization on earth.
As we mature, the default is to pull further away from living fully alive. That’s a huge mistake. Run full speed ahead until the day your chest breaks the tape at the end of this race. As a follower of Christ, I believe that is the day that he will make me perfect. Until then, I will keep learning from my mistakes and moving forward.
Perfection is a goal to pursue, not a requirement for living.
So paint, sing, write, dance, love, and keep living! God isn’t done with you yet.
Any other perfectionists out there? I would love to hear from you.