Love, Forgiveness, and Understanding Trump Perfect

Love Tullips

Recently, I was reminded of the awkward girl who inhibited this body of mine more than 20 years ago.  She barely spoke above a whisper or made eye contact with others. She also walked stiffly, wore a veil of rejection, and held a basket of fears.

Perhaps that girl reminds you of someone whose reflection flashed in the mirror of your youth. Those character traits are shared by many. And even for those of us who tightly closed the doors of the past, there are still reminders.

Not necessarily painful memories, because true healing is the best pain reliever, but more like souvenirs from a different lifetime that hint toward progress and validation.

Knowing who we were then helps us better identify who we are now.

However, for as much as I have grown in character, a few ragged remnants of my old self remain. I long for the day when I finally throw those scraps away. What a contradiction of character that I still hold them, unable to assign them to the trash heap in which they belong. One tattered fragment that at times still holds power over me is my struggle with perfectionism.

Perfectionism is nothing more than a form of pride, but I often mislabel it for “caring about others,”  and “holding myself to a high standard.” It’s perfectionism that causes me to put on the verbal boxing gloves and berate myself for a lapse in judgment.

Truth is, I’m going to mess up. I’m going to fall short. Despite my best intentions, I’m going to mildly offend some people and enrage others.

Some of the mistakes I make will be huge and marred with selfishness. Others will be small, unintentional blunders like forgetting someone’s name or speaking out of turn.

What I’m learning is that while it is absolutely necessary to accept responsibility for my mistakes, it also is absolutely necessary that I not dredge up those errors as a means of self-deprecation. It means I need to accept the unconditional truth about who I am in Christ.

I’m forgiven.

I’m forgiven even if the person I grieved chooses not to forgive me. I’m forgiven even if I hold onto to the shame of my mistakes.

I’m loved.

I’m loved even if the world calls me a fool and my friends abandon me.

I’m loved the same amount when I’m volunteering in a nursing home and when I’m cussing because I stubbed my toe.

I’m understood.

I’m understood even if someone looks at me like I’ve parachuted in from another planet.  God doesn’t always agree with my thoughts and actions, but He understands my heart. He made it. He speaks to it. He pieces it back together after it’s been wounded.

He holds it.

He owns it.

He has made it whole.

Forgiveness, Love and understanding trump perfect every time.

But when full understanding comes, these partial things will become useless. When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.— I Cor. 13: 10-12 (NLT)

A version of this post was originally published on June 21, 2010 at (in)Courage  under the title “Contradiction”