I have a friend who frequently says to me, “Lissa, why strive for perfection when good enough will do?” I always laugh because the thought hits me as such a novel idea! Most of us have heard of “Type A” personalities or at least we have been the uncomfortable recipients of their intensity as they navigate life and tasks. It seems that women are particularly susceptible to this personality inclination. Here is how this type is described:
Type A Personality Characteristics & Behavior The Type A is a normal person operating at his maximum possible speed. She wants to achieve a big goal but she thinks that time is very limited and this results in the following behavior:
- Exaggerated Sense of time urgency: Since the type A thinks that time is running out and since her goals are too big, she always races with time. If you want to lose a type A in a short time, then waste her time (by making long phone calls or making her wait for something too long). Time is a tool for measuring and a means of limiting, confining and defining. As such, time is important to someone who has always had to meet standards and deadlines for acceptance.
- Issues with Valuing rightly: Type A people have esteem issues, as they don’t base their value on solid ground but rather on meeting standards. As such, rather than by their inherent value as people, they value themselves and what they do by money. What’s it worth, what did it cost, how much do they earn, have and spend? Their language is peppered by references to the cost of things. They spend or give money as a way of showing love or affection. It is their empowerment and security. In relationships there is a medium of exchange and of acceptance with others and it is money.
- Competitiveness: The type A is a very competitive person, she considers everything to be a challenge. She is challenging the circumstances that led to her insecurity and so she will challenge every thing else that does the same.
- Cleanliness: Since A types tend toward perfectionism they have a high need for orderly, clean, neat surroundings. Disorder or dust makes them feel bad about themselves so they are driven to stay ahead of clutter and dust bunnies!
- Multitasking: The type A can handle more tasks at the same time than Windows XP can. You know that a person is Type A if you have found that she is involved in at least five unrelated activities while performing well at them all.
- The Price for Over Achievement: Over achievement does not come for free. Type A’s are subject to tremendous amounts of stress. Their life style is the main drive for this stress (always running, having lots of things to do & racing with time)
Doesn’t that list make you want to settle for a “B”? As I was pondering the cost of striving for perfection, I ran across this quote from Noel Piper’s book “Faithful Women and their Extraordinary God.” It caught my eye because it was about one of my missionary heroes, Helen Roseveare. What a helpful, gospel-orienting help this was to my soul:
“Perhaps the deepest underlying personal factor in Helen’s tension was the need she felt to do her very best and, if possible, to be the very best. God called her to Africa where that was not possible. There were continuing lessons for her: learning to treat malaria by symptoms rather than with prescribed lab tests, having to operate without having been trained as a surgeon, needing to make bricks rather than spending the day with patients. Perhaps that is an issue for some of us–struggling with the reality that God has called us to do less than we want to do or less than what we believe is best. That can happen in any setting.
For me, it’s been especially true in my years with small children – ‘I got a college degree for this?’ Maybe the problem is the way we see ourselves. Maybe we think more highly of ourselves than we ought. If anyone was too good to die, it was Jesus. If anyone should have done greater things than walking dusty roads and talking with people too dense to understand him, it was Jesus.
In Philippians 3 . . . is the verse, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (verse 10). When God called Helen to less than she expected, he was helping her become like Christ, rather than like the best doctor or missionary she knew of. Who is it we want to be like?” (p. 172)
Can you imagine? Our perfectionist impulses are evidences that we think too highly of ourselves? Oh little one, why strive for perfection–Jesus is the embodiment of it–so restfully settle for the “B”… it is very good enough!