The quest for perfection can act as a real spur to achievement. It’s exhilarating to bring a task to its fullest and finest state of completion. For some, though, the wish to be perfect can turn sour in what becomes an obsession.
While it might seem like a virtue to be a perfectionist, in the final analysis it really isn’t. If we’re obsessed with every technicality, every eventuality, and consumed with a need to make perfect some object or task, what we often find is that despite the excessive ambition our efforts fall short in some way.
Is there something fundamentally wrong, then, with the strenuous effort to be perfect in all that we do? Certainly it has to be better than a halfhearted, careless approach to things. The mistake comes from believing that a deep-felt desire to be perfect is rooted in the human mind and will be fulfilled by human skillfulness and drive. The truth is that the desire to be perfect comes from a divine influence in our lives and is fulfilled spiritually.
Understandably, perfection seems like a tall order if we think of ourselves as never-good-enough men and women relentlessly striving for excellence within a human, material framework. From that standpoint, aiming for perfection seems tormenting rather than freeing.
But in the highest sense man isn’t an imperfect mortal striving to be perfect. Lasting perfection can’t be expressed materially. Matter can never can be flawless, boundless, immortal.
The demand for perfection coming from Spirit, God, isn’t some impossible ideal, nor is it a divine mandate aimed at a bunch of flawed mortals, commanding them to personally master their inherent weaknesses and faults and make themselves into flawless beings.
God’s message to us to be perfect is His message that, in fact, we are perfect—spiritual, intelligent, complete—just as He made us. We’re His likeness.
That’s what underpins Christ Jesus’ words “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” It’s on the simple, scientific basis of what man already and eternally is that we’re able to perfect our lives — to be healthier, happier, and expand our capabilities. Christian Science verifies, through healing that the Master’s words aren’t referring to some impractical, unattainable way of life; rather, they refer to the way you and I actually are—the perfect offspring of one perfect creator—and the requirement to prove this truth of being.
You’ve probably found yourself thinking matter-of-factly, “But I’m not perfect. Far from it!” Perhaps the trouble is a job you don’t feel qualified to do, a rough time you’re having at school, or a performance you can’t seem to master. Before long you’re buried in imperfections and self-doubt.
That’s because when we set our sights no higher than mortality struggling to be perfect — thinking of the human mind and personal skills as our source and means for bringing out perfection—we inevitably fall short. The human mind, starting from an imperfect premise — seeing existence as materially evolved — can never find within itself the means for overcoming its own limitations.
For that we need to look to God, the perfect One. He has established the standard of perfection and He fulfills it. He is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. And man, the expression of God, reflects His perfection. Perfect love, perfect wisdom, perfect action, perfect substance, a perfect nature, all belong to man as the image of the one perfect God. The Psalmist speaks of God’s creation of man this way: “Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands”
Holding to a spiritual idea of man, we catch a fresh vision of ourselves and of our potential. We gain an awareness of our perfect spiritual heritage and limitless capabilities. Then we’re better able to follow the exalting example of Christ Jesus.
The means for becoming better and better in all that we do isn’t by cultivating a sharper material-mindedness but rather embracing spiritual-mindedness. Being spiritually-minded, being reconciled to the Mind that was in Christ Jesus, is what brings excellence into human affairs.
If, for example, one feels pressure to give all his attention to endless details in order to complete a task successfully, turning to God — striving to understand better and to trust the ability of Mind to govern wisely all its ideas — should be our objective. As we’re more spiritually-minded, we’re conforming to the government of God, willing to follow His direction, assured of our ability to make wise choices, to be creative, and to heal.
The tasks we undertake don’t have to be done with any sense of pressure or inadequacy; rather, we can accomplish them with the precision and confidence that comes from knowing we reflect the perfect One, and already have all the intelligence and wisdom and inspiration we require. In this way we’ll find ourselves and our work naturally rising to a new standard of excellence.