Train your child in the way in which you know you should have gone yourself.

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The Good Life vs. the "Perfect" One

Kathy Collard Miller

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I walked into our home and my husband, Larry, said, "Come into the kitchen." I followed him and with a flourish of his hand, he proudly pointed to the dish-less sink. "I did the dishes for you."

"Wow!" I breathed. Larry rarely did the dishes-and only when I asked. I was so excited. I wrapped my arms around him for a hug, but as I looked over his shoulder, I noticed the kitchen counter and saw he hadn't wiped off the counter. Anyone knows you haven't finished the dishes until you wipe off the counter.

Just as I began to open my mouth to instruct him in proper dishwashing, I remembered that I'd been working on releasing my perfectionistic expectations. I'd recently identified myself as a perfectionist, and one of the characteristics of that emotional hang-up is not giving credit or praise unless something is done perfectly. It's as someone has aptly quipped, "A perfectionist is a person who takes great pains and passes them on to others." And I'd done a lot of "passing," so I was trying to let God help me in that area. Here was my chance. I could give Larry credit even though he hadn't completed the task perfectly-like I would. No, he hadn't done a perfect job, but he had done an excellent job-the best he knew how.

As my mind considered these truths, I knew what I should do. Instead of commenting on what he hadn't done, I praised him for what he had done. "Honey," I exclaimed, "Thanks so much for supporting me in this way!"

I was so glad I bit my tongue and appreciated his loving gift-even if it wasn't done perfectly. And, guess what? Larry did the dishes again the next evening. I bet he wouldn't have done them again-and many times since then-had I criticized his efforts. Of course, while there may be the need to instruct someone on how to do something better, I've learned not to do that in their moment of glory, but later when it wouldn't be poorly received.

By appreciating excellence instead of demanding perfection from both others and myself, for several years now I've found that even though my perfectionism is not cured-it currently is in remission.

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