Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been looking at the differences between excellence and perfection. It’s almost as if my heart has been on a journey of unlearning and relearning what excellence means and what it doesn’t mean. I’ve noticed that I have been carrying a tad of (negative) baggage because of some past experiences and past failures. I recognize that how this word excellence makes me feel has much to do with the fact that my heart has a tendency to confuse excellence and perfection. Because of this, my knee jerk reaction is to be on guard whenever the word excellence is put into play. Here’s why:
If striving for excellence means striving for perfection…I want nothing to do with it.
I could tell story after story as to why I feel this way, but here’s my short answer. Striving for perfection has caused nothing but grief, exhaustion, confusion, hesitation, paralysis, pain, and fear in my life. Geez…just writing those last two sentences makes me emotional and all the memories of how my life used to be held captive by the mask of perfection come rushing back. I will never live that way again. NEVER.
In my search to better understand the important difference between excellence and perfection, I reread their definitions:
Excellence: the quality of being outstanding or extremely good.
Perfection: the condition, state, or quality of being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defects.
You see why it’s easy to get confused? They sound suspiciously similar to me on paper.
Yet, I know there’s a huge difference.
Perfection is not attainable but excellence is. There’s a verse from a familiar Christmas song, The Little Drummer Boy, that keeps popping into my brain any time I think about the word excellence. “I played my best for Him pa rum pa pum pum” To me, that’s excellence. Excellence is when we bring our best to a situation. Excellence is when we show up ready and fully prepared to play our heart out for the Lord.
I started thinking about times in scripture where excellence played a role and the two instances that immediately came to mind had more to do with the posture of someones heart rather than “perfect” situations.
I thought about the prostitute who came to Jesus and poured expensive perfume all over His feet. Luke 7:37
I thought about the poor widow who showed up at the synagogue with nothing but a couple of coins…but those coins were everything she had. Mark 12:41
For some reason, these two accounts make me think of what excellence truly means. We bring our best (to Him and for Him) in whatever situation we enter. We bring our best and Jesus is honored. We bring our best and His grace and His extravagant love for us more than bridges the gap.
I know I’ve only scratched the surface in unlearning and relearning what excellence means and that’s okay. Again, I think about the quote I shared with you all in my last post. “Progress is more important than perfection.”
Colossians 1: 28-29 Message “We teach in a spirit of profound common sense so that we can bring each person to maturity. To be mature is to be basic. Christ! No more, no less. That’s what I’m working so hard at day after day, year after year, doing my best with the energy God so generously gives me.” Colossians 1: 28-29 Message