I am not a big fan of perfectionism though I am in awe of excellence. Watching the Sedins pass the puck, or my grandson laugh eating a mouthful of banana bread, or driving a Porsche 911 as fast as it should go — this is the experience of excellence.
But perfectionism robs the delight from a lovely object or a job well done. Perfectionism removes the joy from success and squashes creativity, courage and simple relationships while doing it.
You cannot find perfectionism and happiness in the soul of the same person — they are antithetical. Once a perfectionist succeeds, all he feels is relief, having dodged the bullet of failure one more time.
Perfectionism is the fear of failure. Whereas, excellence is the one who risks failure to succeed. There are excellent mothers and fathers, pastors and churches, kids and teens, students and professors (I am in the middle of marking academic papers from my teaching in Kenya last December), but none that are perfect.
Last week David (my son) and I went to hear Eric Bibb sing and play at Capilano University. An amazing concert with gorgeous sounds, and tearfully touching when Eric introduced 90 year old Leon Bibb, his mentor and beloved father. Father Bibb’s voice is not what it was perhaps but there was an even more excellent thing. Hearing the Bibbs sing with arms wrapped around each other, weeping with the friendship of many years, the music was transported. And here I was with my son. Excellent it was.
And more… I read a Psychology Today article on”Perfectionism” for a parenting class I am teaching this Saturday. It is worth reading.
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
(Rumi was a 13th C Muslim poet. This reflection sounds like wisdom to many who experience depression, loss and heartache. Change happens only when acceptance precedes it. Ignoring one’s life — or worse, rejecting one’s life — is the surest way to non-change.)
I always thought I had a pretty good handshake. A simple forward thrust and vertical pump is what I was taught by my Dad who told me “a good man has a good handshake.”
I met a pastor with a “Baptist handshake” (I know that this is an unfair caricature) where my welcoming hand was twisted sideways and horizontally mowed like a handsaw, all the while the boney back of my surprised pod was pressed by his aggressive thumb.
I reminded myself to wave at him in the future and I avoid pleasantries with him whenever possible. I remember the handshake and the bruising.
Handshaking is about boundaries really – who is in charge of your life and in this case my hand. I don’t like feeling trapped in a coercive handshake but I love to be welcomed by an open hand. I don’t like the dominance factor: “my handshake is more manly than yours.” Handshakes are not for competition but for camaraderie.
Handshakes are also for mutuality, a greeting of equals. It serves as a personal acknowledgement and perhaps as an expression of early affection. Vulnerability is implied in a way in which a “high 5” does not. It allows for eye contact, some greeting or departing conversation, a time to signal a connection that could turn into a friendship.
Boundaries are hard to set and even harder to explain. Try telling your spouse or parent or boss that their intensity is pressuring to you and that sometimes even the bonhomie bruises.