Perfection Is Our Potential, Not Our Present

RM Jennings
04/26/19 | 3 min read
The ideas we sometimes have about perfection, and our need to achieve it, are very different from what Christ taught us about perfection. Though He commanded us to “Be ye therefore perfect,” Christ doesn’t demand an impossible standard. Instead, He shows us our divine potential as children of God.

I was visiting my friend Paula, watching in admiration as she simultaneously made homemade pasta for dinner, bounced her crying baby on her hip, and listened intently to her 3-year-old’s repeated requests. To me, she looked like the perfect woman: calm, happy, and focused on both her children’s needs and mine as she casually whipped up a better meal than I’d ever made in my life.

You can imagine my surprise when I took to social media a few days later and saw her share how much she’d been struggling with comparing herself to other mothers, postpartum depression, and feeling like she wasn’t doing enough for her family.

I got to thinking about perfection, that impossible standard I’d been striving toward, and which I assumed just about every woman around me had totally mastered. I knew that Christ had commanded us to “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48), and I really wanted to be. But I realized that the perfection Paula and I had been seeking was probably more about timing than the destination.

I think that one day we’ll be surprised and amazed to discover just how different our understanding of perfection is from what the Savior has taught us about perfection.

What I Thought Perfection Was

My idea of the perfect woman came from what I saw in all the women in my life.

My friends, who I adored and always thought the best of.

My own mother, who I felt so indebted to.

And then the gorgeous influencers I followed on social media.

To me, and according to social media, this is what made up the perfect woman:

  • Fit
  • Beautiful
  • Successful
  • Clean house
  • Endlessly positive
  • Married
  • Well-dressed kids
  • Travels the world
  • Never buys more than she needs, yet has all the things she wants
  • Doesn’t wear pajamas to the grocery store

Of course, I fell short of that list daily. And I felt as though anything less than perfect didn’t count for anything—I could either be perfect or a failure.
But I realized that my expectation of being perfect wasn’t at all what Christ had commanded me to be.

What Perfection Is

I don’t think that God is concerned with how spotless my house is, which countries I have traveled to, or whether or not I know how to make homemade pasta.

God is concerned with my happiness, the happiness of my family, and our eternal salvation.

When Christ said “Be ye therefore perfect,” He wasn’t telling me to constantly attempt to reach some impossible standard. He was helping me see my divine potential. He was asking me to look forward to a glorious future. As President Russell M. Nelson said: “Perfection is pending. It can come in full only after the Resurrection and only through the Lord. It awaits all who love Him and keep His commandments” (“Perfection Pending”).

Pending perfection isn’t picture-perfect. It isn’t flawless. Pending perfection isn’t even free of past mistakes.

Perfect, as used in the scriptures, means to be complete, finished, or fully developed. In other words, to become perfect, I must be redeemed. I must be full of love. I must be whole through Christ.

I think this is closer to what makes up a good person, one who will one day “be perfect in Christ” by the grace of God:

  • Loves those around her
  • Wants the best for her family
  • Is there for others
  • Takes care of herself (napping is OK!)
  • Listens to her own needs
  • Is patient with herself
  • Is kind and repentant
  • Strives to improve

God can do a lot with us when we’re earnestly doing our best to follow Him and serve His children.
I’ve found a lot of comfort in these words by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: “I believe that Jesus did not intend His sermon on this subject to be a verbal hammer for battering us about our shortcomings. No, I believe He intended it to be a tribute to who and what God the Eternal Father is and what we can achieve with Him in eternity” (“Be Ye Therefore Perfect—Eventually”).

So, be ye therefore loving. Be ye therefore patient, with others and with yourself. Be ye therefore humble and willing to repent, and bring your shortcomings to God whenever you feel like you’re a “failure.”

One day you will be perfect through Christ—and who knows what that looks like in the next life? But I do know I can be the best version of myself today as I grow to be more like God.

RM Jennings
RM Jennings is a writer in Salt Lake City. She loves TV, books, her dog, and her family, and she works hard every day to slow down and find joy in the details.