I’ve sometimes heard people say, “I’m a recovering perfectionist.” While I empathize with the anxiety and sense of inadequacy that seems to underlie that statement, I wouldn’t apply it to myself. I am not so much concerned with attaining perfection in anything I do (much less in myself) as with pleasing everyone around me. It might be nice to be seen as doing something perfectly, but only in service of my desire for approval.

So maybe I’m a recovering approval junkie. In any case, I often remind myself that my worth is inherent — it comes from inside, not from the accolades and approval of the world. It’s baked in, part of God’s indelible thumbprint on me. And when I forget that and start listening to what people say about me, I’m forgetting who I am at the most basic level — God’s beloved.

If you find it hard to believe that you, too, are God’s beloved, get up early some morning and go to a high spot to watch the sunrise. I did that last Saturday. I woke up early and for some reason, the thought came to me that I had time to get dressed and drive to a hilltop a few miles from my house and see the sun come up.

I got there a few minutes early and looked around at the pink sky to the east. In the west it was still night. As I watched, the colors spread, changed, intensified and then began to be concentrated more and more right where the sun was, but it still wasn’t above the horizon.

After a couple more minutes, the edge of it peeked over the hills and then — oh … my … heavens … it just kept on coming. I had thought it would rise gradually, but no. I stood there in awe and amazement as I watched the sun come up, up, up! It was indescribably wonderful. I was in love with it. And, do you know, this happens every single morning of our lives?

I stood around a while longer, just gazing as the sun kept on rising. I began to see purple spots, but I couldn’t stop looking. Finally it got so bright I had to look away.

I don’t think the sunrise is just for me, but it is for me as much as anyone. And it is there each day, a reminder of how good it is to be alive. In our hurried world, where so much value is placed on our productivity and the amount of social approval we are able to accumulate, it’s important to remember that joy and inner peace and self-worth do not depend on external circumstances. They come from cultivating oneness with creation, a relationship with Spirit and a deep-down awareness that although we aren’t perfect, we are precious. Perfection in the “recovering perfectionist” sense is about invulnerability, not needing anyone else. But an older understanding of the word is more about wholeness, completion. In that sense, we approach perfection as we accept and welcome all of who we are, including our mistakes and failings and all the other parts of ourselves we habitually hide.

And so it is true: everything contains the seeds of its opposite. In order to be perfect, we must be imperfect.

Republican Journal editor Sarah E. Reynolds is a longtime employee of Courier Publications.

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