Pursuing excellence is not the same thing as chasing perfection.
It hit me with the approximate velocity of a 100-mile-an-hour freight train.
Excellence is not the same as perfection? Really? Really. (Clearly, some of us missed that memo. If you already knew that, please, don’t tell me.) There are times when ignorance really IS bliss.
See, excellence asks only for the best of us. It’s not demanding something we don’t have to offer. It requires only that we show up, do our part the best we can, and leave it at that. There is no need for manipulating, controlling, or losing sleep over the outcome when we are pursuing excellence. It isn’t even about the outcome. It’s about faithfully showing up, doing our part as well as we can, and then leaving the rest in God’s hands. It’s about taking responsibility for the gifts we’ve been given, and living out the best version of ourselves. Excellence is offering the best of ourselves to God and others as a generous gift. And that’s it.
Perfection demands an unattainable and unrealistic standard. (Perfection and I…we have a shady history which I get into here, here, and here.) Things get sticky when perfection comes into play, because egos are always involved. When an identity hangs on the line, suddenly, it’s all about the outcome, and we’ll do whatever we have to do to come out intact. It’s self serving at best, destructive at worst. And because perfection is so chokingly tangled up in identity, life becomes all about us, and others become either annoying obstacles or convenient stepping stones. Hardly “they will know you are My disciples by your love for one another” kind of living. (John 13:34-35)
It is awesome and God-glorifying to pursue excellence, dream boldly, and live faithfully, humbly, and lovingly. It’s what should exemplify Christians everywhere. In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus gives an example of using what we’ve been given wisely when He tells the parable of the talents. In the story, those who took what they had been given and faithfully traded and invested are the ones that are held up as models for our instruction. The Christian life is not about primly sitting around waiting for life to happen, but rather engaging fully with the ins and outs of daily living, yet never becoming consumed by the outcome. A wise woman knows that there is no controlling needed on her part. Doing her best…that’s her job. Caring for all the other details…that’s God’s job.
It is terrifying and self-destructive to chase perfection, pursue approval, and hunt for supremacy. Ain’t nobody filling that hunger. Perfection is cruel and abusive, and if left unchecked, will take all the best things from us. It will take our love for God, our families, our friends, and our focus. It will twist what’s good and beautiful and make it warped and ugly. It will turn us into ego-driven, self-centered little tyrants that no one wants to mess with. It will make us the ugliest, most twisted and warped version of ourselves and chew up all that was ever good and beautiful.
Excellence energizes, while perfection exhausts. Do you know how tiring it is always flailing and grasping for something, and never quite getting it? Ridiculously, drooling-on-the-couch-in-a-stupor kind of draining. (My poor couch.) Perfection just never knows when to call it a day. Excellence does.
Oh, how I need to wrap my mind around this galaxy-wide difference between doing my best and doing it all. Your best and mine…it’s enough. It is. Jesus is the only One who can do it all. And He can have that job. (I am so done with candidating for it.)
How about you?
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