I recently ordered a pair of glasses from my ophthalmology office. I have some specific needs in any pair of glasses I wear regularly. It makes for a tricky order.
They came in. And went back, because they weren’t right. The office said the prescription for one of the lenses didn’t quite match mine. It needed to be right before they’d release them to me.
I went through this several years ago, with another office, a national chain. It took them 6 tries for the lab to get my glasses right, over 3 months! The store manager was so frustrated after the 4th attempt, he called his boss’s boss, and informed him the company was reimbursing every bit of my costs, to make up for my delay and inconvenience. After the 5th attempt, corporate gave in.
I am not telling you this so you can feel sorry for me, with my challenges in ordering glasses. It is an effort to think about where the search for perfection might be a positive thing to have working, and where it might not.
The search for perfection in things like health care is a good thing. We want our prescriptions perfect, whether they be glasses or medicine. We want our doctors to diagnose us right, the first time, and prescribe the right course of treatment. We want to be having correct billing, and not pay more than our insurance company says we have to, assuming we have insurance.
We want things as close to perfect as possible when we deal with food,
whether buying it or ordering it. We want to know it’s fresh and good for us. We want to know it’s not contaminated, or handled by someone who’s ill. If we’re eating out, we want it to taste good.
Most of us seek for perfection in our work. We want to do a good job for our employers, to give an honest effort for the wage they pay, whether we feel we deserve a larger one or not.
How many other areas can you think of where people seek perfection? I can think of dozens, right off the top of my head. Society gives us the message we should want perfection in our life partners, our bodies, our families (though I am beginning to think it is now pushing dysfunctional as “the new normal”), our extended relationships and so on.
What is the result of all this search for perfection? Health clubs have booming memberships. Diet plans are everywhere you turn. A new career has sprung up and gained popularity, the Life Coach. (Not that I am knocking it, since Life Coaches with LIFE know what they’re talking about and have the fruit on the tree of experience to prove it!)
And everyone keeps searching for the elusive butterfly of perfection. never realizing it will ever remain just out of reach. Modern society tells us we want to be married to super models, be super models ourselves, have homes out of decorating magazines, kids who win all the awards and get all A’s, have perfect greeting card holidays, own the latest and greatest whatever, never have problems, never get sick or be stressed or tired . . . The list is as unrealistic as it is endless!
Even God never demanded perfection of us after the Garden of Eden. What He
said as recorded in Leviticus 11:44 was,
I am the Lord, who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy.
The expectation God Himself has on humans is holiness, not perfection. A standard of excellence, not something He knew we’d find impossible to reach. God didn’t make it easy, but He did make it worthwhile.
When I demand perfection of myself, or demand it of those around me, I childishly insist on something God never expected me to do. When I insist life must be in perfect balance at all times for me to be happy, I set myself up for disappointment on a daily, even hourly, basis. If I were to insist everything I did were perfect, you would never read a single post from me! I’m careful in my editing, to say all I want to say (hopefully without offending anyone too badly!), but if I demanded perfection, I’d be editing every entry forever, and never get one of them posted! (Maybe one or two of you are saying, “Good, that means she’d shut up!”, but I hope not!)
So, how do we solve this problem? The Apostle Paul addressed it in Romans
16:19b when he said,
I want you to be excellent in what is good and to avoid what is evil.
So our goal is excellence, not perfection. Like God’s own standard of holiness over perfection, excellence is attainable. It’s not easy. It’s hard, very hard. But it is something we can do. And perhaps, should do.
The world makes room for those who seek excellence. Excellence opens doors mere talent may only crack. Those who seek excellence in whatever they attempt eventually rise above their competition. The landmark book Talent Is Overrated by Geoff Calvin speaks to this. In it, he cites several case studies in which those who practiced their craft attained higher levels of achievement than those who relied on mere talent alone, without the discipline of continued practice applied over time.
There is no substitute for hard work. Tim Tebow said, “It’s not hard to beat talent when talent won’t work hard.” The most successful people in life are not the ones with the most talent, but rather those who have the ability to push themselves to excellence. Remember: You won’t reach high if you won’t push on.
The secret to excellence, then, is in pursuing it. It’s a goal, not a destination. It’s one I’m headed toward,and I am one of many in the pursuit. If you’re not already, why not come and join us?