The Problem With Perfection.

If you’re anything like me you’re a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to the things you create or the things you own. I admit it. The problem, though, is that perfection itself is a problem when it comes to parenting and family in general.

I love my car. In fact, I probably love it a little too much. It’s not a fancy car, like a Corvette or a Lexus, it’s much lower on the totem pole- it’s a Chevy Malibu.

But, it’s a nice Malibu. And, fairly new. A 2012 to be exact. I bought it a little less than 2 years ago after a guy pulled out in front of me and helped me total my old Malibu. I replaced it with a newer version because I just like these cars. They’re sophisticated without the sophisticated price tag. Plus, they’re smooth to drive.

I take good care of my car and I get quite frustrated when my children leave their belongings strewn about in their seats after a ride home from school or a friend’s house. If you asked any of my children how dad felt about his car, they would probably roll their eyes or make a comment about how I’m crazy obsessed about keeping it clean.

The other day I was doing just that- cleaning it. When I clean this car, it’s nothing short of being detailed by a company. I make sure I wash it thoroughly, wipe it down, vacuum the carpets until zero crumbs or dirt are found, and wipe the interior with Armor All scented wipes. Okay, I guess you could call that obsessed! 🙂

As I meticulously scrubbed in between the dash and the steering wheel it sort of hit me how obsessed I was about the cleanliness of this car. I began to think about how much I love perfection. I love it when things are in order, neat, and tidy. I love freshly vacuumed carpet and neatly folded laundry (there are a few piles sitting next to where I’m sitting right now in my house).

My wife and I both hate clutter, with a passion! It drives us nuts to be in any place where there’s an abundance of it. We have a difficult time being able to relax when there’s any in our house. You should’ve seen us try and move in to a new house this past spring.. :-). We demand that our children keep their spaces neat. We expect their rooms to be picked up all the time and we expect that they not leave their junk lying all over our car floors or in the rooms of our home. Sometimes, admittedly, we go a little overboard. It’s the way we’re wired, you could say. We just like things to be…perfect!

But there’s a problem with that: Perfection is unattainable. In fact, it’s impossible.

Try as we may, we will never reach a level of perfection with anything in life. Take the most finely tuned pro athlete who executes their job in a game with precision. They’re still not perfect. They’re flawed. Or how about the actor who can mesmerize a movie-going audience with their line delivery or emotion. Far from perfect. Also flawed.

Know why? They’re human, and humans are flawed.

Let me bring it closer to home: The next door neighbor who seems to have it all, appears to be the perfect parent, and is raising perfect children who rise and call her blessed every morning, is not perfect! She’s flawed too. Outwardly you can’t see it but behind the walls of her house there’s probably a very different story. I know this because every time someone gushes over our family the thought crosses my mind- “If you could only be a fly on our walls!”

When we pursue perfection as parents, as spouses, as humans, we run into problems. I know this because I have experienced it personally many, many times. Here are some of the problems with the pursuit of perfection:

  • It alienates our children. I can’t tell you the amount of times I have been ranting about clutter all over the place, or the mess in my car, and I’m humbled by the looks on my children’s faces. It’s a look of lostness. That’s right, lostness. I really think it’s because they’re kids. It’s in their DNA to not have order or work by systems like we do. This is not to say that we shouldn’t teach them responsibility or order, because we should. It’s our duty. But, if you’re anything like me, you need to relax and give them some margin to be kids. I think my high demands for perfection alienate my children from my affection at times. That’s a really hard sentence to type (or admit)!
  • It causes our stress level to raise. I don’t know about you but I feel stressed out when I try to be perfect. I find myself spending all of my time making sure things are perfect instead of actually living life. I don’t like to be stressed even though it’s a natural part of life. So, if that’s the case, why in the world would I add more to it by trying to do something that is not attainable in the first place?
  • It’s exhausting. When we used to live in a big, fancy house, we would throw parties. Lots of them to be exact. I always found myself getting really tired in the hour or two before the party started. Later on I realized why- I spent a ton of time running around making sure everything was “perfect” that it wore me out. This is not to say that we should forego a clean house. I believe that the house should be prepared for guests to arrive. But not perfect. Because, as I’ve already said, it’s unrealistic (more on that in the next bullet point). Your guests pick up on that pretty quick, I’ve discovered. I want to enjoy life with the people who visit my home or spend time with my family. Heck, I want to have energy for my wife and children. They’re the most important people!
  • It’s not realistic. Try as we may, perfection is not realistic. There’s no part of reality where perfection exists. One of the most rewarding things about moving from a modern home to an old home (which we did back in May), is that flaws are part of the character of the home. Nearly every doorway, every floor, in every room, has some kind of flaw. It’s extremely difficult, at times, to pick up replacement parts for my house because most of the originals were manufactured in the early 1900s. My modern house just wasn’t true to real life. But I’ve found that my older, flawed home, is. As human beings we have so many quirks and idiosyncrasies. As parents and spouses we do too. That’s real life!

This is a struggle for me personally. I bet some of you are feeling the same way. While there’s nothing wrong with keeping your car neat and orderly, or your home in top shape (It’s good to take care of the things we own), it’s treacherous to fixate on perfection as our end-goal. When I do this, I wind up stressed and disappointed anyway. I want to really live life and feel free doing so. I want to enjoy every moment with my wife and kids and not feel the stress of trying to have everything perfect. How about you?

Question: Do you find yourself pursuing perfection often? What have you personally learned from trying to do this? I would love to hear from you in the comment section of this post! You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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