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Why Can’t I Just Be Perfect?

From childhood, I had done my best to be “perfect.” But Heavenly Father subtly reminded me that imperfections were steppingstones to eternal life.

"Men are that they might have joy--not guilt trips!" -Russell M. Nelson. woman's mouth and hair

Photo by Lesly B. Juarez

As a kid, I was always happy and helpful, and as my mother called me “the angel child.” Somehow though, I took that nickname to heart in the worst way as I grew up. Any mistake, no matter how big or small, brought bouts of depression and guilt. If I really were an angel child, I anguished, why couldn’t I stop hitting my brother, screaming at my sister, or disobeying my parents?

Middle school came and went, high school was well under way, and I was still disappointed in my lack of perfection. I read the scriptures every day for over six years, but when I eventually missed a single day, that failure was my only focus. I couldn’t seem to remember that I had read faithfully for more than 2,190 days.

And I couldn’t forget when one of my younger sisters borrowed a skirt I had bought with my hard-earned babysitting money and returned it with a rip and a fleeting apology. I yelled from across the house and chased her into the basement, pummeling her with the ruined skirt.

As I look back, these mistakes seem insignificant and possibly even hilarious. I know my sister will always remember getting hit with that ripped skirt as she ran down the stairs, and now we laugh about it. But at the time, these moments of imperfection were heart-breaking and devastating. I remember thinking, “Why can’t I just control my temper and emotions? Do I even have faith? Why can’t I just be perfect!?”

Obviously, I wasn’t perfect because no one is—except Jesus Christ. One day during my personal scripture study, I found a wonderful reminder from President Russell M. Nelson that we will never be perfect in this life and that for us mortals, perfection is pending.

In his talk “Perfection Pending,” President Nelson says, “We all need to remember: men are that they might have joy—not guilt trips!” Had I reminded myself of this daily throughout my youth, I would have been much happier. President Nelson sympathizes with this struggle: “When comparing one’s personal performance with the supreme standard of the Lord’s expectation, the reality of imperfection can at times be depressing. My heart goes out to conscientious Saints who, because of their shortcomings, allow feelings of depression to rob them of happiness in life.”

After thinking about this concept for a few weeks, I began to let happiness back into my life. Even when I made mistakes, I began to see my imperfections as steppingstones on the road to eternal life. This is not to say I never felt guilty or bad again—that is certainly not the case. But I have realized that through continuous work, temple attendance, and faith, we can come unto Christ and become perfected in him in the eternities.

Read or watch President Russell M. Nelson’s talk Perfection Pending.”

Source: LDS General Conference

—Brett Peper Ruff, Mormon Insights

feature image by alex jodoin

Find more insights

Read or watch “We Can’t Do It Alone” by Elder Robert D. Hales to learn about coming to Heavenly Father for help in our imperfections.

Study President Dieter F. Uchtdorf‘s general conference address “The Gift of Grace,” which highlights how God’s grace unlocks the gates and opens the windows of heaven.

Take a look at Rebecca J. Clayson’s Ensign article titled “Depression” to understand how depression can affect your spiritual experiences.

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  1. Nice article!

  2. Wonderful article!

  3. Pingback: Perfection—Still in Progress - Latter-day Saint Insights

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