Doing It 'Just Right'

for the week of April 2, 2001
by Rubel Shelly

You've heard of analysis paralysis, right? Some people are so determined to think through every detail of every possible eventuality that they can only see opportunity in the rear-view mirror. The window of opportunity for many profitable investments, career options, or relationships sometimes closes before she is comfortable with making the move. By the time she determines to act, the time for acting has passed. Thus the dictum carpe diem, Latin for "seize the day."

Good judgment is one thing. Prudence and caution before taking a risk is appropriate. But the inability to make a decision and take action is not a virtue.

Then there's the variant of analysis paralysis that I'll call the penchant for perfection. When it is self-oriented, this spirit embraces incredibly high and unrealistic standards of performance; it is unable to acknowledge fault or failure. It is the person who must make all As in school, be the top performer in the company, and always be acknowledged to be right in family decisions. Some researchers claim a link between the penchant for perfection and depression. Some even link it to a high percentage of suicides.

If the penchant for perfection is other-oriented, it imposes unrealistic expectations on the people in one's environment. He can only criticize and find fault with his employees and co-workers; nothing is ever so good that he cannot tell the person how it could have been better. In his family, his take on things is that the house is never clean enough, the children never do as well as they could in school, and nobody really deserves praise. These people make other people unhappy and find it hard to keep good employees or to stay married.

God didn't put us here to do everything "just right." He certainly didn't put us here to be one another's monitors and critics. Each of us is imperfect, and the best way to relate to one another is with patience and encouragement.

Admitting our shared imperfection is not an excuse for failure. It isn't meant to keep us from trying. And it certainly isn't whitewash for low standards and puny performance. It is simply acknowledging that we human beings must accept our imperfection and admit that we can't do everything right all the time. It's a plea for our right as humans to learn from our mistakes and continue moving ahead.

It is in our moments of imperfection and failure that God meets us with his grace and empowerment. And you don't want to miss that encounter, do you?
 



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