The Myth of Perfection

As an Integrative Psychotherapist I strive to always remain balanced when assessing, diagnosing, and treating the situations I encounter. This means that I seek to avoid the tendency to see and evaluate matters from a hyper-conditioned point of view that limits itself to one particular –ology or –ism. Essentially this means that rather than try to fit the situation at hand into my paradigm, I allow my paradigm to be informed by the situation at hand. After all, “If all you have is a hammer, you will treat everything like a nail.”

One very important aspect of this open approach is the inclusion of philosophical and theological constructs that help provide an often “higher context” with which to understand the nuances of life. I have found that inviting clients and patients to speak freely about their spiritual beliefs and practices greatly enhances the therapeutic process, and it even goes so far as to help pinpoint problems and provide strategies towards solutions.

However, while healthy spiritual constructs can be of great use, I have also encountered certain unhealthy religious attitudes that are often at the root of certain pathologies.  One example would be what is known as SCRUPULOSITY.

Religious Scrupulosity typically manifests through hyper-fundamentalist beliefs and practices. Often, those who experience it do so because of obsessive-compulsive tendencies and the belief that one must be PERFECT.

If I only had a dollar for each time Matthew 5:48 (“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect”) has been quoted in this office!

I am deeply saddened (and even a bit angry) when I encounter those who are held captive by indoctrination and communal pressures that thrive upon literalism and control. My sadness is for the victims, and my anger is towards those who proliferate these doctrines (often out of their own sinister pathologies!).

Whew, okay. Deep breath. Exhale. 🙂

Friends, please allow me to share something from more than 30 years of theological, philosophical, and psychological research and praxis:

You do NOT have to be PERFECT, you are not compelled to seek PERFECTION, and you will not be damned for being IMPERFECT!

By the way, the actual Greek word used in the scripture above (Teleios) is actually poorly translated when rendered as “perfect” in that it more accurately means “mature” or “complete.” This is one of the dangers of religious fundamentalism (of any variety) – it misinterprets and takes things out of context in order to support particular agendas.

Please allow me to share with you an integrative way of understanding teachings on perfection that I learned from my own Mentor. His guidance was that whenever we encounter the word “perfect” we do well to substitute it with the word “harmonious.” Likewise, “perfection” would become “harmony.”

In this way we are free of the need to force things into some perceived state of being in favor of allowing things to be and flow naturally into their most natural state of being. For example, rather than trying to be Brad Pitt in appearance, Stephen Hawking in intellect, or Bill Gates in wealth, I need only be the most harmonious Mik Ludwig possible. This means I am free to take what I have and continually allow it to grow and become better, knowing that it will always be “perfectly imperfect.”

Dear Reader, I hope that this Blog post might start you on the path to freeing yourself from the superimposed need to be perfect, so that the true potential of YOU might unfold and allow you to experience the freedom of inner peace and harmony.

In closing, a quote from Words that Heal:

“The quest for perfection is a dog chasing its own tail. Frustration and disappointment are the guaranteed results. When we have learned the art of being “perfectly imperfect” we will know and experience authentic peace and harmony.”

Be Well!

Dr. Mik

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