Monthly Archives: April 2009

Perfectionism


I have found myself saying a strange phrase lately, and it goes something like this: often, we “get in our own way.”

Last fall, our Writing Center Director presented us with a chapter called “Perfectionism,” from Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, subtitled Some Instructions on Writing and Life. I encourage you to go the chapter and read it, because it made me laugh and cringe simultaneously.

I cringe, because I, like many of you, “get in my own way,” and am guilty of perfectionism.

Anne Lamott points out in her ironic, gentle tone that,

Perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-tone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.

Lamott has some funny thoughts on God (more like Mr. Rogers, not so much like Bob Dole!), but the gist is that God is a God of grace, and that God is compassionate with us as we should be with ourselves. It seems women especially need to practice this compassion with ourselves and with one another.

A favorite professor of mine just posted on her blog about the much-needed failures in life and the even deeper truth that we need not be afraid to fail, for “successful women are those who have not let their failures define them.”

Can you imagine if all the powerful women in our lives “got in their own way” so much that they were afraid to fail, hence afraid to live, afraid to dream, afraid to love??

Okay, now I’m waxing poetic, but you get it, right?

Perfectionism is us at our worst; showing ourselves grace, that’s God at God’s best.

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Control and Forgiveness

It seems only natural that at the end of a school year I start to reflect on that year, but rarely do I do that spiritually. When I do, however, these two buzz words appear not to chart my growth as a person, but present all the challenges in the world.
As my spiritual director reminds me, “Control is an illusion.” When I reflect on my activities this year, my unrest about the future, I realize that in the moments I tried to control things, muscle through life to its conclusions, no peace, no solitude, certainly, no certainty came. But at the moments where I’ve been able to focus on my ministry, my work in the present and trust God in the moment, possibilities have arisen for the future in a comforting, exciting way.
This weekend at church a friend of mine preached a sermon and reminded us about the difficulty of forgiveness, the particular difficulty with accepting God’s forgiveness because that act makes us instrumental in God’s plan to impart forgiveness to other. In a magazine the other night, I stumbled upon the suggestion that forgiveness is not as much for the person to be forgiven as for the transformation of the forgiver. And it seems true, it seems another aspect of relinquishing control to admit that the world, others do not need our forgiveness as desperately as we often do. Practicing forgiveness rather than offering forgiveness seems to be a true challenge in relinquishing control.