Taming my inner idealist

Earlier this morning, while I was dusting my bedroom and my kids were doing their chores, I was reflecting on how much I’ve changed my modus operandi.  I have been working for the last ten years to tame my inner idealist.

My pastor has a sermon (or sermon series) he teaches on the gods of this age, and the first time I heard it, it threw me for a loop.  The god of hedonism?  Surely.  The god of materialism?  Yup — rife in America.  The god of individualism?  Well, as a dyed-in-the-wool Gen X’er, that was a little harder to swallow;  Gen X’ers pride themselves on being an island to themselves, but I could quickly see how that attitude is really unbiblical, totally an anti-Body-of-Christ mentality.  But the hardest to adjust my thinking to was the god of idealism.  What was so wrong with wanting — needing — things to be better?

The more I reflected upon it, though, and the more I learned about idealism, the more I could see how it really incapacitated me.  I was living in the world of “Should.”

I don’t know how many times, as a kid, I heard, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.”  “If you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all.”  “Do it right the first time.”  …and so on.  My dad was — is — a super-idealist, super-perfectionist.

Before I had kids, and I was married and working full-time, I would clean my house every Saturday.  That meant mop the floor, of course, and vacuum (moving all furniture, usually), do laundry, and dust.  The thing is, to me, doing dusting “right” is actually what most people would call “polishing.”  Out came the cleaners and the old cotton rags.  I moved every knick-knack (cleaning them, too) off of every tabletop and shelf and polished until the wood gleamed.

After I had kids, though, I found that my availability to tend to my house was, uh, sharply diminished.  Dust would (sometimes still does) pile up because I couldn’t carve out the literally two-three hours it would take to polish the furniture “right.”

Other household tasks suffered similar fates.

Logic-head that I am, I came to the realization about three or four years ago that doing something even halfway-right was exponentially better than not doing it at all.  40% of 100 is 40.  0% of 100 is zero.  Under virtually all circumstances, 40 is way better than zero, even if it’s not even close to 100.

My longing for that full, complete 100% kept me from moving at all.  “If you can’t do it right…”  It also kept me from handing out chores to my kids, since — of course — they didn’t have the ability to do it “right.”

Skip forward about ten years until present-day, which found me Swiffering my (semi-recently polished) bedroom, while my three boys were at their own chores, and feeling satisfied with the results of both.

I’ve not completely eliminated my idealist tendencies.  If you e-mail me a nice, long, meaty letter, chances are, I’ll let it sit in my inbox until I have the time to “really” respond.  IOW, it’ll sit there nearly forever.  Same with phone messages, sometimes. 

So many times, the Idealist in me will rear its ugly head, but at least I can usually recognize it as unhealthy, and seek to bring my thoughts into a better, more practical, more workable, less immobilized reality.


About Karen Joy

I'm a partially-homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 19, 17 and 15 years old, and three girls: 11, 8, and 3. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I very casually lead a very large group of homeschooling families in the Phoenix area. I have a dear hubby who designs homes for a local home builder and who is the worship pastor of our church. I live in the desert, which I used to hate, but now appreciate.

Posted on August 10, 2007, in Christian Living, Friendships, Get Organized!, God/Christianity/Church, Introspective Musings, Parenting, Random Stuff, The Kids, Vineyard Phoenix. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Wow, I could have written this post (apart from the dusting). It’s nice to read about someone else’s experience and feel a flare of recognition.

  2. Take a look at the book “Freeing Our Families from Perfectionism” by Greenspon. It’s right along these lines.

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