Do you ever find yourself stressed out because you want to be perfect? Maybe you have a perfectionistic tendency. I sure do. For example, I’ve spent a week debating the title of this blog. So while I clearly haven’t conquered my desire for perfection, there is something I like to ask myself that does help me stay in check. I ask myself “Is this a piano?” I’m not always too sharp, so the first time I heard this, it fell flat. Hopefully it won’t for you.
My freshman year of college I was forced to take a study skills class. I called it “waste of time” and “workbook of boredom.” Yet, there was one key thing that has stuck with me. I’ve always struggled with wanting to be the best & every tiny detail of something I do to be perfect. I was taught in this class when facing any task to ask myself “Is this a piano?” It’s an analogy that really struck a chord with me. A piano has 88 keys, and each one must be tuned to perfection for it to sound the way it is intended. If a piano is out of tune not only does it sound bad, but it will make other instruments sound bad as well. This is one time something must be fined tuned to perfection because it is key to a much larger picture. An entire orchestra would be out of balance if the piano wasn’t tuned properly.
If I stop and think, I’m struggling to find things I have to do that must be 100% perfect. There are plenty of things I’d like to be perfect, I’d like this post to not have any typos, I’d like it if my hair would be just the way I want it. It would be great if I could have a conversation where I don’t put my foot in my mouth. I can tell you with almost all certainty none of that will happen this week.
I can tell you what will likely happen this week. I’ll proofread this blog at least three times, but still find something I wish I had said differently. I already know there is an email I keep forgetting to send. There is a 99% chance the tacos I’m anxiously waiting to eat for lunch will end up on my shirt. I won’t be able to find the earrings I really want to match my necklace. I’ll find at least 8 Facebook comments where I’ll wish I could blame autocorrect for my mistakes. I’ll unintentionally say something that may hurt someone else. I’ll also take at least one situation into my own hands before I remember God can handle it much better than I can.
Does any of that resonate with you? Maybe you got to work and realized you’re wearing one black and one navy shoe. Perhaps you’re trying to mend a relationship because you said something you didn’t mean but hurt someone’s feelings. Maybe you’re part way through your day and realize your shirt is on inside out again. Did you try to cook a nice dinner, but you can’t even pass it off as “charred” because it’s clearly inedible. Maybe you keep slipping into that old habit you’ve tried so hard to break but just can’t find freedom.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to do our best. The Bible is filled with scripture that tells us to work hard. I like how Colossians 3:23-24 puts things into perspective:
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” NIV
Take note of the first line “with all your heart.” That’s very different than outward perfection. It’s about our motives. Second, “as working for the Lord.” Stop for a minute and think about why are you feeling the pressure to be perfect? Who are you trying to please? What is the bigger, eternal picture?
When we stop stressing about being perfect, that’s when we give Jesus the chance to show Himself to us.
You and I are human, and that means we will never be perfect. Every single day we will fall on our faces, sometimes literally. The bigger picture is to remember Who we are serving. Sometimes we do need to ask God to help us to just keep going and maybe have a giggle. Sometimes my Facebook posts that I want to blame on autocorrect end up funnier than if they had been written properly. Maybe your daughter is going to get a good laugh when she realizes your shirt is inside out. Perhaps you can say your mismatched shoes were because you were indecisive and wanted both colors. Your family may be thrilled with pizza instead of the “charred” chicken for dinner.
Other times we do need to apologize and take a mistake seriously. Once I remember who I need to email, I will apologize for forgetting, and I’ll try to find a way to not let it happen again. I need to ask God for forgiveness and for Him to help me to rely on Him before I do things on my own. I’ll do my best to not hurt someone, but I need to apologize and ask God to help me change when I do.
Jesus is there even in the moments when we completely mess up. He’s there offering grace, strength, and forgiveness.
We also need to be forgiving when others don’t live up to perfection. I need to extend grace when I don’t receive an email I have been waiting for. I can let it go when someone spills something on my shirt. I need to listen to what a friend means instead of something that came across as hurtful.
I can remember the time I was playing the piano, accompanying my school choir, and ended the song on the completely wrong chord. Later that evening while we ate ice cream, some of which did land on my shirt, my friends and choir director took this perfectionist and helped her see it was ok that her fingers accidentally hit the wrong keys. I’m thankful for the people who have extended grace to me. The least I can do is extend grace to others.
While I still hated that study skills class I was forced to take, I am grateful for the lesson I learned. I can see that one bad note doesn’t ruin an entire song. So, this week when you feel the stress and pressure to be perfect, ask yourself, “Is this a piano?” Maybe you’ll find yourself less stressed and playing a different tune.
I’d love to hear one way you’re letting go of the stress of perfection this week. Is it mismatched shoes? Did you spill your coffee on your shirt? Please leave a comment so we can realize no one is perfect and maybe get a giggle from each other. I’ll share something from my week if someone else does. Also, let me know if there something you’d like me to cover in a future blog post.
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