Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Tainted Perfection

ISWG: Happy First Wednesday. I haven’t been writing as much here because I’m focusing my efforts on some articles for publication, and it seems that I cannot write them in public blogosphere if I desire publication. A shitty catch. 

However, today I offer... 
A confession: I read Gwnyth Paltrow’s online ridonkularity... Goop. Mostly because I want to look like her. But also because I want to be her. Or at least be friends with her. Or at the very least I want to be friends with people who think I look like her.
And in her latest article, she hijacked one of my recent favorite thinkers, yup, took it right out of my brain: Brene Brown, and another favorite person of mine, Jesus. Together. But I don’t think she did so intentionally. At least she didn’t do it to intentionally piss me off. But it did. Somehow even though I admire her, I don’t want her to be a deep thinker or be real or like the same things that I do. And I like being able to harbor at least a little bit of resentment toward her (until we become friends) that empowers my thoughts of, “oh, well, you may be super skinny and hot and rich and fabulous, but you don’t listen to Ted Talks like I do, or study the Bible, or know much about Jesus...” which sounds absolutely contrary to what Jesus would want me to do...
The other night I was on a lovely afternoon walk with my 8 year old (yes, I had to bribe him to accompany me) and we were discussing the challenge of making friends. Well, to be honest, I was asking a lot of questions, and he was mostly grunting in varying tonalities.
I was trying to encourage him to be a friend to people without expecting much in return. And that if he does this, eventually, someone will want to be his friend back. And that even if people act mean to him, he still needs to be kind, even though this can be super hard. It sounded a bit like this: 
“Myles, even if *Bob tricks you and shoves you into the dirt while you’re playing Manhunt in the playground, you don’t have to write him off as a possible friend (Though you can tell Bob that he hurt you, and if he hurt you real bad, you need to tell the playground supervisor).”
“But Mom, he’s mean.”
“Well, we can all be a bit mean sometimes. It is usually a sign of something else. Maybe somebody hurt Bob’s feelings, and then he started taking it out on you in the playground.”
“Mom, (grunt) I am not supposed to be nice to someone who’s mean to me.”
“Actually, you are. Jesus asks us to. He tells us to love our enemies and turn the other cheek when someone hurts us. He even asks us to be perfect.”
“Mom! (loud grunt) why would Jesus ask us to that? That’s impossible.”
“Ya, I’m pretty sure he knew it was impossible, but he wanted us to try our hardest. What if he had just said, be okay. Or be average. Or be pretty good when you feel like it? What kind of goal would that be for us? Instead he asks us to be perfect, even though he knows we will fail. But. He promises to help us and to forgive us. And you can ask him for that help anytime, you know, even on the playground. Even during Manhunt.”
“Ya, well, I guess at least I have one friend.”
But Gwynth had a different take on perfection. She claimed that trying to be perfect stifles us and suffocates us and causes depression, divorce, eating disorders, etc. She didn’t even know that she was quoting Jesus, and I don’t know if she knows him or not. 
I, too, struggle with the fine line between the challenge to “be perfect” and the tangle of perfectionism. I suspect Jesus wasn’t talking in Matthew 5 about being perfect in the ways that I all too often get obsessed with (perfect body, perfect home, perfect manners--that’s a particularly huge challenge for me) rather I like to think Jesus asked us to “be perfect” in our little sad souls, as in: be honest, be truthful, be fearless, be vulnerable, and be willing to take a risk and trust that he will show us how and when and why.
And to be perfectly honest, I'm thinking about killing this little blog--it has been a false fantasy of mine that deludes me into thinking I have any actual readers... My apologies to the 1 - 2 of you that actually read this. I guess my son's insecurity is reminiscent of something we never quite get over.

*names have been changed in this story to protect the innocent, and clearly there are no humans under the age of 50 named Bob, even in Canada.

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