I’ve seen the question of perfection come up a lot recently on different blogs. I’ve basically observed two different approaches:
1) Bloggers that share the picture-perfect moments and explain that they don’t do so because they have a perfect life by because they prefer to focus on the good rather than the bad, to spread hope and encouragement.
2) Bloggers that “air their dirty laundry”, some in a rather sarcastic, challenging way and others in a sympathetic, “hey, I understand you” sort of way.
These approaches may be different, but they share an underlying assumption: none of us can be perfect. I don’t entirely disagree with this; I think it’s true in the way they mean it – none of us have a life without scrapes, tears, messes and other troubles.
Fair enough. But I’d like to offer a different perspective: we CAN be perfect. Our life can be perfect.
After all, Jesus himself told us to “be perfect” as our Father in Heaven is perfect. Unless we think God is teasing us with impossible commands, this implies that we CAN be perfect. And perfect NOW, because Jesus wasn’t talking about the future in heaven; he was giving a command to his disciples on earth.
How does this sync with the reality of our fallen nature and all the flaws in both ourselves and the world around us?
It’s simple: keep it REAL. I think we can accurately say that when we usually talk about perfection, we’re really talking about dreamland, a lovely, non-existent, impossible reality that we conjure up in our head. Dreamland doesn’t exist. But perfection does, because perfection is something REAL. The definition of perfection isn’t actually flawless; it’s more along the lines of “as good as it is possible to be”.
In other words, perfection corresponds directly to nature and capacity. Perfection is the state of being as good as we possibly can be within the context of our very real nature and capacities, not outside it. This is why we truly can “be perfect” even in this life. Our perfection in this life won’t look the same as God’s perfection. It won’t look the same as angelic perfection, or as our perfection in heaven will look. It won’t look the same as animal or plant perfection either. But it truly is a form of perfection, correlated to our own nature and state in life.
I like to compare it to love between spouses. When I married my husband, I already loved him “perfectly” – to the full. A year later, I loved him even more, and now, several years later, I love him still more.
Does this mean my first love wasn’t complete? No – I already loved him to the full. But, over the years, my capacity for love and grown and changed, and so too has my love. I couldn’t possibly have loved my husband the way I do now when we first married; I didn’t have the capacity. But, at each step along the way, our love has been “perfect”, or complete to the best of our capacity and, as such, completely fulfilling.
Keep it real. Don’t define perfection based on a set of capacities you don’t have – that’s not only impossible and discouraging, but also unjust to yourself. At the same time, don’t make the other common mistake of equating perfection with finality (e.g. once I’m perfect, there’s no room to grow, nothing else I have to do, etc.).
Our capacity for love and virtue is constantly changing, hopefully growing. And, as our capacities change, we too need to grow in order to fill them. So, yes, in one sense, we will be forever more (in this life), striving to be perfect, but this isn’t because God has given us an impossible task; he’s given us an ongoing task that will both fulfill us and challenge us every day of our lives.
What does “perfection” in this sense of word, look like in our own life and family? First of all, get dreamland out of your head. You’ll always be dealing with spilled milk, dirty laundry and suffering. Then, look for things like the following:
- Love. Do you, your spouse and your children love each other sincerely and purely? Sure, arguments are still bound to arise, but if, at the end of the day, you reconcile your disagreements and remain with your love, you qualify!
- Joy. Do you smile often? Does laughter fill your house? Laughter (and I mean the pure, hearty laughs that come from deep down inside) is a gift unique to mankind – a special capacity God has given us for appreciating life.
- Beauty. Do you have lots of reminders of beauty in your daily life? These are a fleeting glimpse of heaven.
- Faith. Do you stay connected to God? He is perfection itself, so the more we stay united to him, the more we can fulfill his plan for you and follow his commands.
- Communication. Do you take time to talk and listen to each other and spend time together? Man has a unique capacity for communication that allows him to reciprocally give and receive, thus connecting more into God’s plan for man to love and be loved.
If you’ve said “yes” to these questions (and I’m sure you can all add many to the list!), which I’m sure many of you have, you probably are living the perfect life. Just keep at it, and keep growing in faith, love and virtue!
On a different note, here are a few more pictures of our recent trip to Europe – I finally found the one of us outside the Vatican, and a couple others!
God bless you all!