We had struggled with the idol of perfection since we were dating. My marriage has been flaunted on the altar of perfection perception. By me. By my husband. By extended family.
It was unclear to me the depths of my idolatry until our marriage was attacked. But even after that, I still white-knuckled my outward persona to match what I had hoped to convey to the world: we were still perfect. We were still the perfect couple. So then God threw a couple more blows my way to completely humble me where I finally saw it. I finally saw Him in His splendor, and me on my knees begging for forgiveness.
I saw some of the deep-rooted sins in my life; one of them being my view of marriage. I didn't know how to view it but I kept hearing the word 'perfect' all around me and it kept bringing me back to inadequacy. Then I noticed how often I said it and wrote it. My husband was saying it, and so were my kids... and pretty much everyone around us. I realized our culture is driven to perfection in so many areas. Not many of them are Godly or Biblical, and yet we strive so hard to meet an unattainable standard. And if we can't, we show off the illusion that we have concocted. We fight so hard to show off.
I lasted about a week listening to the all-too-common use of the word 'perfect' and then I was done. I had had enough. I threw my hands on the table, stood up out of my chair, and told the kids my new rule. We would not be saying the word 'perfect' in this house. Let me show you some of the definitions of 'perfect' from dictionary.com:
perfect[adjective, noun pur-fikt; verb per-fekt]
-conforming absolutely to the description or definition of an ideal type-excellent or complete beyond practical or theoretical improvement-exactly fitting the need in a certain situation or for a certain purpose-entirely without any flaws, defects, or shortcomings-accurate, exact, or correct in every detail-thorough; complete; utter-pure or unmixed-unqualified; absolute-expert; accomplished; proficient-unmitigated; out-and-out; of an extreme degreeverb (used with object)-to bring to completion; finish-to bring to perfection; make flawless or faultless-to bring nearer to perfection; improve; make better-to make fully skilled
This was the message I sent my kids. Daily.
I was prodding my kids to display perfection in every area. I was the one driving stress and anxiety right into their developing minds and hearts. Just as I had done with myself and my marriage, I was beholden to this god of perfection. And I was cramming it down the throats of my little ones. My eldest son hates (HATES!) to lose. Second place holds little value for him. Learning from mistakes is a foreign concept to him. Reading slower than his sister is like a slap in the face to him and he shrinks into himself and retreats from the world. Guess where he learned that from?! Ugh. Me.
We talked with the kids about what that word means and what it represents. We made it clear we do not ever expect perfection. We expect obedience and respect. We expect them to try their best and give things their all. We expect them to learn from mistakes; to let the mistakes fuel their progress in trying again. Of course we tied that into the Bible since that was where we gained our knowledge of this concept and shared how God doesn't expect perfection but our obedience and respect.
It turned into a game to recognize someone saying the word 'perfect' and call someone out for saying it. And I was the worst at it. I failed time and time again. My daughter called me out even in the first hour after implementation. It made me realize how much a subtle influence one word actually has on people. I subconsciously was demanding perfection from my kids without outright saying it. Looking back, it felt like it was almost the appropriate "Christianeze phrasing" for shaming my kids to align with my screwed up values.
I do apologize when she catches me saying it, but just as sanctification cleanses you, so to have I noticed it with how little the word comes to mind now. But I have lifted at least one heavy burden off their shoulders... and mine. It has lightened the air and I have already noticed a difference with our eldest son. I think it has made for a safer emotional environment where we are free to be ourselves and express our individuality without fear of retribution.
I challenge you to listen to the words your family says, the people around you, and how often tv shows will use the word perfect.
It is the one word I have banned from our house.