On January 1st, my wife asked me if I made any New Year’s Resolutions. I had not. She wasn’t surprised by this as I never make them – but it was still a valid question because it really wouldn’t be a surprise to her if I did. She knows that I love dates and milestones and that I have recently put an emphasis on striving to be a better person. It would only make sense for me to have taken part in the ritual that so many do each year. As I thought about her question, I wondered why I had decided against it.
Maybe it is the perfectionist in me. I didn’t even know I had perfectionist tendencies until I had been married a couple of years. You wouldn’t have guessed it based on my academic attitude – I used to say “in life, if you know 80% of the stuff, you can look up the other 20%.” I guess it’s good I grew up in the era of encyclopedias, because in the internet age, I would probably have reversed those percentages – but there are other areas in my life where perfectionism rears its ugly face.
I have always hated to be wrong, and it bugs me when I am not the best at whatever it is I am doing. I just chalked that up to my overly competitive nature. I have learned that I demand perfection in certain areas of my life, but definitely not all. I have made decisions on what areas I demand perfection of myself and what areas I don’t worry about – whether that be because I don’t think I can attain it or don’t want to put in the effort. So, making a New Year’s Resolution would simply be setting myself up to fail, as most are broken within a couple of weeks.
Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, urges us to be perfect, not to our standards of perfection, but to God’s. Out of context, that sounds like an impossible task. In fact, the Bible tells us that no one is perfect and all of us fall short of the glory of God. However, looking at the command in context gives us something to strive towards. Jesus issues the command as He is finishing His thoughts on loving enemies. The next passage talks about giving to the needy in secret. This is the same sermon where Jesus tells those listening that blessed are the poor, the meek and the persecuted.
My desire to always be right, and let everyone know it, is not a characteristic of perfection in God’s view. Neither is straight As, rising to the top of the corporate ladder or having the best-looking house in the neighbourhood. I won’t pretend to know exactly what perfection looks like to God, but based on the Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 5 and 6, I would expect that being kind and helping others for their sake, not my own recognition, would be a good place to start.
I don’t know about you, but if I am going to try and live up to God’s standards, that is a commitment I need to make every day, not just once a year. Sure, I can start the year with a generic goal of self-improvement, but if I am to strive for perfection, I need to take it one interaction at a time. If I can be a little more like Jesus to everyone I come into contact with that would be a great start on the road to perfection.