specificity and the tyranny of perfectionism.

specificitythe quality or state of being explicit, particular, or definite.  If you’re like me you’ve dealt with ambiguity of thought and/or purpose your whole life.  The inability to make up one’s mind is like a handicap to clear, cogent thought.  There are behavioral terms like “passive-aggressive” and biblical terms like “double-minded” to help show the lack of specificity.

Why is this such a big issue to me?  You see, I’ve been haunted my whole life with this one question, “What if…”  For example, what if I fail?  What if they don’t like me?  What if I mess up and have to start over?  It’s for this very reason that I just couldn’t drum up the gusto to be irrefutably explicit or definitive about what I want or who I am.

In the spirit of confession, there have been times where I was so paralyzed by what people thought that I have just shut down, unable to even to decide on something so menial as where I want to eat.

My lack of specificity (or more accurately, my ‘battle’ with it) all stems from a general insecurity in who I am and who I’m called to be.  This battle exists in everyday life.  On one side of the imaginary line stands the man who I am and the other side stands the image of the “perfect” man.  Unfortunately, it’s taken a long time for me to realize that image of perfectionism is actually emasculating.  I’ll get back to this in a second.

In the meantime, I’m learning to be comfortable with myself and as a result, I’m learning to make decisions without fear of failure.  Will I fail…you bet.  Will I make the wrong decisions…without a doubt.  Thus in my past, it has been frustrating to lead others when I’m not willing to decide and then just stick with it.

Again, it’s the curse of perfectionism.  Believe me, there are libraries built around these behaviors and thoughts so I’m not necessarily trying to introduce anything new here.  Just do a Google search on perfectionism.  I guess I’m just declaring that my everyday leadership has suffered long enough from the tyranny of achievement.  Good grief, not just my everyday leadership but the core of who I am.

So at the risk of sounding narcissistic, I will admit…I don’t care what you think.  Read closely here: don’t confuse this with my compassion for people.  I’ve spent a career both vocationally and voluntarily caring passionately for people and I still do.  The thing is, I’ve done good things for the wrong reasons.  The paradox is this: this battle isn’t for your soul.  Your salvation rests in the hands of Him who begins and completes faith.

This battle is for my soul.  The two men I mentioned earlier on opposite sides of the line are one and the same.  No, I’m not perfect but I am who I am becoming.  Going from the man who I am to the man who God has called me to won’t be accomplished because I achieved more.  Instead, it’s when I recognize and accept the most specific idea in this universe: that there is nothing more explicit, particular or definite than the love of a Father for His prodigal son.

There is nothing more piercing, wrecking or assuring than the cross of Jesus Christ.  Here is perfection accomplished.  Here is the image that I can now look into, hide behind and draw from.  Here is where I can truly and definitively say, “Yes and Amen.”


8 thoughts on “specificity and the tyranny of perfectionism.

  1. Hai Jonathan,

    Warm Christian Greetings!!!

    I read your article “specificity and the tyranny of perfectionism”, as I read each line I felt that I depict me altogether.

    Thanks for writing this article…

    With love and prayers

    David Gorden Noble

  2. Jonathan,

    I may have to steal the verbiage “tyranny of perfectionism” for my thesis. Very aptly put and a message that not many in our culture think even needs to be said.

    • I just ask that when you become famous, you remember me. Yes, I agree with you! To take it a step further, I think that guilt and perfectionism are uniquely connected. I just thought today, “Am I seeking perfection because I feel guilty about something…?” Food for thought.

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