HOLINESS AND PERFECTIONISM ARE NOT ONE AND THE SAME THING.
“Be holy for I the Lord your God am holy (Lev 19:2).” “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect (Mt 5:48).” These are two well-known Scriptural verses where God calls us to holiness and perfection. However, holiness and perfection (in love and mercy, living as children of God), can be easily confused with perfectionism which is a totally different thing. To know their difference, I encourage you to read the excerpt below taken from an article, Pleasing God.
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A risk for those who want to please God
Pleasing someone is the opposite of saddening him, disappointing him. Since we want to love God and please Him, it’s only natural that we are afraid of disappointing Him. But fear can sometimes stir up in our mind and heart exactly what we are trying to avoid. Moreover, fear is a negative feeling, which can’t be the basis for a fulfilled life. Maybe that is why “in the Sacred Scriptures the expression ‘do not be afraid’ is repeated 365 times with different variations, as if to tell us that the Lord wants us to be free from fear, every day of the year.”
In his first pastoral letter, the Father warned us of a certain type of fear. He encouraged us to “express the ideal of Christian life without confusing it with perfectionism, and teach people how to live with and accept their own weakness and that of others; practicing, with all its consequences, a daily attitude of hopeful abandonment to God’s will, grounded on divine filiation.” A holy person is afraid of offending God, and not responding fully to his Love. The perfectionist, in contrast, is afraid of not doing things well enough, and therefore of God becoming angry. Sanctity is not the same as perfectionism, although sometimes we can confuse them.
How often we become angry on seeing that we have let ourselves be carried away once again by our passions, that we have sinned again, that we are weak in fulfilling the simplest resolutions. We get angry, and think that God must be disappointed; we lose hope that He still loves us, that we can truly share in his life. Sadness sinks into our heart. On these occasions, we need to remember that sadness is an ally of the enemy, and doesn’t bring us closer to God but rather distances us from Him. We confuse our anger and temper tantrum with what we think is God’s disappointment in us. But all this stems not from our Love for Him, but from our wounded ego, our unaccepted fragility.
When we read Christ’s words in the Gospel, “Be perfect,” we want to follow this advice, to ground our life on it, but we run the risk of understanding it as: “Do everything perfectly.” We can even think that, if we don’t do everything with perfection, we fail to please God; we are not true disciples. But Jesus immediately clarifies the meaning of his words: Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Mt 5:48). It is about the perfection that God offers us by making us sharers in his divine nature: the perfection of eternal Love, of the greatest Love, of “the Love that moves the sun and the other stars,” the same Love that has created us as free beings and has saved us while we were yet sinners (Rom 5:8). For us, being perfect means living as God’s children, aware of the value we have in his eyes, without ever losing the hope and joy that stems from sensing we are children of such a good Father.
Faced with the danger of perfectionism, we should remember that pleasing God doesn’t lie in our hands, but in His. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us (1 Jn 4:10). Therefore we should never try to tell God how He has to react to our life. We are creatures, and hence we must learn to respect his freedom, without imposing on Him why or why not He is supposed to love us. In fact, He has shown us his Love, and therefore the first thing He expects from us is that we let Him love us, in his own way.
God loves us freely
Why is it so hard for us to understand God’s logic? Don’t we have abundant examples of how far God the Father is willing to go to make us happy? Didn’t Jesus gird himself with a towel and wash the apostles’ feet?
As Saint Paul wrote, God did not spare his own Son in order to make it possible for us to enjoy happiness forever (see Rom 8:32). He wanted to love us with the greatest possible Love, to the ultimate extreme. However we can still sometimes think that God will only love us as long as we “live up to it” or “measure up.” It is certainly paradoxical. Does a young child need to become “worthy” of its parents’ love? Perhaps we are actually seeking ourselves in our eagerness to prove we are “deserving.” Perhaps it is our own insecurity we confront here, our need to find stable, fixed reference points, seeking them in our deeds, in our ideas, in our perception of reality.
But all we have to do is look at God, who is our Father, and rest in his Love. In the Baptism of Jesus and in his Transfiguration, the voice of God the Father tells us that he is pleased with his Son. We too have been baptized and, through his Passion, we share intimately in his life, his merits, his grace. As a result, God the Father can look at us pleased, delighted. The Eucharist transmits to us, among other things, a very clear message about God’s feelings for us: his hunger to be close to each of us, his readiness to wait for us for as long as necessary, his yearning for intimacy and for a love that responds to his own love for us.
The struggle of a soul in love
READ MORE IN https://opusdei.org/en-ph/document/pleasing-god/