As I begin this blogging journey and in shoutout to my Uncle Jim, the Philadelphia-based columnist James Smart, I hope I can be half as smart and a quarter as witty as he ever was on a bad day. For my first happy rant, I'm going to use a reoccurring lecture I have used for the last twenty-eight years of teaching, mentoring, and coaching. Let's talk about the phrase, "I'm a perfectionist".
Oh really? Consider that a pianist plays the piano, a machinist works on machines, a plagiarist plagiarizes, an absurdist is characterized as being absurd, and a phlebotomist phlebots? phlebotes? phlebotomizes? Okay, so he punctures holes in people, but I think you get the point. When you add "ist" to an action you are proclaiming that that person does the thing the suffix has been added to. Need more proof? quarterfinalist (in the quarterfinals), agriculturist (dabbles in agriculture), experimentalist, (experiments), oppositionists (they oppose), and on and on it goes.
So when people claim to be perfectionists, I must draw the conclusion that they believe themselves to be perfect. But wait, no human being on earth other than Jesus has ever achieved perfection. So, how can all these perfectionists exist? I suggest an alternative adjective. Prideful. Human beings are prideful and find their identities in their accomplishments. So, when a task rears its head, whether ugly or pretty, that task is now going to be another litmus test of someone's worth. If that task goes well, the worth of the person remains intact. If that task does not go well, anxiety sets in because a person's worth is in danger of being diminished.
If we could separate our worth from our everyday tasks, then maybe our pride wouldn't take so many hits when life proves we are not and never will be perfect. And maybe that would free us up to find something more concrete to base our worth on. Like being made in the image of God.
Just a thought.