I jokingly like to refer to myself as a recovering perfectionist.
“Recovering,” because I definitely haven’t arrived, but I am in the process of getting over my perfectionism. For now, though, I still struggle with needing to get things right. I’m still not comfortable with failure and mistakes, though I am trying to make friends with them. But it takes time.
For many years, this worked ok for me – especially in school. But as I have gotten older, I have realized that trying to be perfect is exhausting. And more often than not, as I am reminded by wiser friends, the perfect is the enemy of the good.
I have been thinking about that a lot this week. As I have watched my friends from all different stages of my life – college and seminary and ministry – engage online with conversations about racism and privilege and injustice, I have been struggling again with the perfect and the good. Because the truth is, I’m not great at talking about racism. Or white privilege, or white supremacy. I’m no expert, and I still fumble with my words: should I describe people as black, or African-American? What about “people of color”? Should I even talk about race itself, since it is a social construct – or should I just stick to the evils of racism? Do I even have the right to talk, or should I only listen?
The truth is, I don’t know. And I’m afraid to get it wrong. I am trying to be perfect at something, and for too long it has crippled me; prevented me from doing anything. I have allowed the perfect to be the enemy of the good.
Well, no longer. For too long, white people (including myself) have been quiet about racism and injustice, and it has meant that these evils have been allowed to persist and to grow in our world. Maybe we’ve been afraid like I have to get it wrong. Or maybe we’ve been fooled into thinking it’s not a problem for us.
Either way, I am starting now. Trying to have hard conversations, and ask difficult questions. I am reading more and watching more and listening more than I ever have before. I am getting things wrong as often as I get them right, but I am not letting that deter me. I am not inviting perfection into this process, but striving always for the good.
One more person who is willing to listen to another perspective.
One more mind and heart changed.
One more step towards God’s Kingdom coming here.
One more step towards ending the grip of racism over our country (indeed, our world), its people and its institutions.
It will be a long time until we can ever get to something like perfect. But for now, let’s start with aiming for the good. Let’s take our first unsteady steps towards becoming agents of change, anti-racism advocates and healers of the breach.
Won’t you join me?
We all have to start somewhere. Check out the Love Mercy Do Justice page of the ECC, and in particular this link on how to “Engage and Respond” with issues of racial righteousness by clicking here: https://covchurch.org/justice/engage-and-respond/