The tyranny of perfectionism PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 29 February 2016 13:24

REFLECTION

BY FR. ROY CIMAGALA

 

We need to distinguish between Christian perfection and the tyrannical perfectionism that unfortunately is emerging in some sectors of our society. The former will always include mercy and compassion, and would know how to handle wrong ideas and erring people in charity. The latter is full of self-righteousness, and could not bear people and things that are in the other side of the fence.

Christian perfection, as exemplified by Christ, can prefer to suffer and even to die a martyr rather than go against the requirements of love. Its caricature, the tyrannical perfectionism, prefers to survive in this life as long as he is always right. He prefers correctness over mercy and compassion.

The disorder of perfectionism usually afflicts some so-called “good” and “pious” people, those who are regarded as rightists and conservatives. They are usually seen as being very strict and fastidious, but the truth is they often have a scrupulous conscience that leads them to be narrow-minded and rigid in their ways.

They are prone to make rash judgments and end up bitter and irritable. It would be no wonder that they feel isolated like an island detached from the continent, and any show of sociability is simply just that, a show, an act, a performance, devoid of the proper substance and spirit.

This tyrannical perfectionism comes about as a consequence of a badly understood Christian perfection. That there already may be some predisposing elements toward it should not be a surprise, because we can presume everyone has them one way or another. It can even be a character trait. The problem is when these elements go uncorrected, and worse, are treated as normal or as the ideal.

Perfectionism can profess ardent if not fanatical belief in Christ, but a Christ without the cross. It simply focuses on what it considers as the exclusivity of truth without the inclusivity of charity. It prefers ideas and values over persons in their concrete conditions with all their charms as well as their warts.

It has a controlling instinct. Everything has to fol