How To Do Everything: Presence over Perfection

I’ve heard it said that how I do anything is how I do everything.

If this is the case, then that means how I’m smoking my pipe while writing this post is how I write this post while smoking my pipe.

That means that how I walk my dog is how I how I do my job.
That means that how I pray is how I relate to my friends.
How I do anything is how I do everything.

Which begs the question; how do I do everything?

My immediate answer to that question – my gut reaction – is not very well. I don’t feel very accomplished in doing things. I constantly feel like I’m failing in some capacity to measure up to a pre-determined standard of performance. Either I compare myself to others (or at least my perception of others) and conclude that I’m not really all that talented, qualified, desirable, forgiven; or I simply decide that there is a high bar of performance or behavior that I have not and doubtfully ever will meet.

So if this initial response is indicative of how I do everything (and the first answer is usually the truest), then it seems that the way I live my life is by failing to be perfect. I tend to define my entire existence by the negative, by what I’m not.

But the thing is, the Bible doesn’t really talk about humanity in the negative sense. The Scriptures don’t talk about what people aren’t, the Biblical writers seem to be much more interested in talking about what people are.

True, the Bible describes the various ways that folks like you and I have missed the mark (the literal meaning of the word sin), but it frames these discussions in the positive sense. Like when the apostle Paul writes in his letters that we are Children of God, so why should we live in destructive ways as if we’re not. Or all throughout the Old Testament when God implores the people of Israel to remember that they are chosen and dearly loved and to return to Him.

And this idea that there is some level of perfection that I am to live up to? It’s not in there.

But what about that one time that Jesus says, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect,” you ask? The original Greek word translated as perfect is telos, which actually means mature, whole, or complete.

How I do anything is how I do everything.

If I fail to be perfect in one thing then I will fail to be perfect in everything, and failing at life is a shitty way to live.

So what’s the alternative? How should I approach my life?

Perfection is not the goal, presence is.

How I do my job is how I go on vacation is how I nap with my dog is how I do the dishes is how I pray is how I love my family. And in all of those things, perfection is a useless (if not destructive) category.

Presence is something completely different. Presence is when I release all expectations of outcomes. Presence is when I am uninterested in performance or income or behavior. Presence is me fully engaging in the moment for the sheer joy of the moment.

Anger is all about perfection, not presence.
Fear is all about perfection, not presence.
Manipulation is all about perfection, not presence.

Love is all about presence, not perfection.
Joy is all about presence, not perfection.
Compassion is all about presence, not perfection.

How I do anything is how I do everything.

When I pray from a place of perfection, I’m trying to manipulate the outcome. I want God to give me something. I want to feel the connection. I want the prayer to work, whatever the heck that means.

But when I pray from a place of presence, I get to enjoy the moment. I get to be still, quiet, and safe. I don’t have to worry if the prayer is working or not, because that category simply doesn’t exist.

When perfection is my chief motivator, I’m always going to fail. The people around me become barriers to my self-fulfillment. I live in a constant state of being stressed out, anxious, and depressed with how my life isn’t exactly how I hoped it would be.

When presence is my aim, I begin to recognize that this entire life is a gift. Every person I meet is a fascinating joy to know. Every moment a chance to enjoy the inherent beauty of this world. I don’t have to do a damn thing, there is nothing more needed, but instead, I get to do so much. I find myself wanting to do work that I find interesting, exciting, and life-giving to myself and others. Presence opens me up to the kind of life that just seems to go on forever – eternal life, as some have called it.

How I do anything is how I do everything.
May we all choose to give up on perfection and simply be present in the gift of this moment.

 

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