The Paradox of Perfection: How embracing our imperfection perfects us
By Jeffrey S. Reber and Steven P. Moody
It’s no secret that I am a Type-A perfectionist. As much as I’d love to hide it, perfectionism has always been a part of my life and admittedly, a part of who I am, for better or for worse. Yet, after spending all of 2017 seeking wisdom, digging through the muck of my soul and uncovering so much truth and reality, I now claim to be a recovering perfectionist.
Praise the Lord, my perfectionism doesn’t get the best of me like it used to. I like to think that each child God has gifted me was His way of gradually stripping away layers of my selfish tendencies and perfectionist personality. While that may be true, I strongly believe my current state of recovery is in large part due to my intentional submission of my weaknesses to the Lord in order to be made stronger by His Spirit. (ref. 2 Corinthians 12:9)
Regardless, I have been naïve to think I am in a healthy place of living a complete life of recovery with no temptation to crack under the pressure to be perfect. I honestly didn’t realize how much perfectionism still plagues me today until I began reading The Paradox of Perfection: How embracing our imperfection perfects us by Jeffrey S. Reber and Steven P. Moody.
This book was a tough read for me. First, because the topic hits close to home and second, because of the cover’s appearance. I’m sorry but, 1.) It is not appealing, and 2.) This book arrived with a bent front cover. (Was that on purpose to be ironic? I don’t know, but bent or ruined book covers really bother me. Ahem, perfectionism.) Once I reminded myself of the lyrics from the catchy tune in Mary Poppins Returns, “The cover is not the book so open it up and take a look,” I personally found the text to be quite dry and repetitive.
The Paradox of Perfection is written by Christian educators and therapists and is geared towards anyone who battles perfectionism or the need to be perfect or live a perfect life. This could be almost anyone today because we live in a world where most people put on a front, face, or image that I like to call, “filtered perfection.” There are many people who battle the extent of what perfectionism entails (myself included), while there are others who choose to embrace the messiness of their lives by willingly calling themselves “hot messes.” Whichever camp you may fall into, neither is healthy and both need the healing freedom that is offered through Jesus Christ.
The authors use Matthew 5:48 as the backbone behind what they refer to as the paradox of perfection, which states in the NLT version: “But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” The paradox describes that God has commanded His people to pursue flawlessness and perfectionism, yet if we do seek those attributes then we will inevitably be led away from the Lord. In other words, if we somehow could find a way to achieve perfection (which is impossible in our broken, fallen world), then we would have no need for a Savior.
A big pro in support of The Paradox of Perfection is that it takes a different angle than many of the other perfectionism books on the market and I deeply respect that. Often times throughout this book I found myself feeling like the authors were describing me directly and personally, which led me to a new awareness of my current state of recovery as a perfectionist. As well, I can’t say I ever considered Matthew 5:48 as part of my perfectionism battle but I can see how it may affect or trigger many to seek the unattainable. I became free of my chains of perfectionism two years ago when I chose to adapt 2 Corinthians 12:9 to my biggest weakness and since then I have received so much peace, clarity, grace and wisdom. I am eternally grateful to be in recovery, though the struggle remains real every day.
A big con of The Paradox of Perfection, in my opinion, is that it has some good meat in it but could be better served as a thesis or an article. For me, this book was a challenging read that I couldn’t latch onto because I couldn’t connect to the writing style, didn’t enjoy how the topic was presented, and found the message so repetitive that it became redundant. Nonetheless, I think this book serves its purpose despite the extent of its length. There is certainly value that can come from reading this book and allowing God to break the chains that are weighing us down.
* I received this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.