Is Perfection a necessary or even realistic ambition? by Nnamdi Onyema


Wikipedia describes perfection as this “Perfection is broadly, a state of completeness and flawlessness”. In other words, being whole or free from faults. 

My father, (Happy Father’s Day to him as today 18.6.2017 is father’s day in the UK), I once described to a fellow student as an eccentric, when I didn’t fully understand the motives for his perspectives​ on life. Growing up as a young child with my siblings in Nigeria and the UK, my father was always instilling the principle of “doing better until you couldn’t do any better in us from a very young age especially myself, as I was the eldest of my 2 siblings.

He always told me I had uncontrollable potential but that I couldn’t rely on ability alone. He stressed the need for me to imbibe the core principles of conscientiousness, determination and discipline to realise one’s potential into tangible achievements. 

Reminiscing on past conversations with him, while in University Primary School  Enugu State after transferring from Ekulu Primary School when my father took the position of lecturer in University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus (UNEC), he would say “do better” after I took 18th position in primary 3, and then after I took 3rd position in primary 4, it was “do your best and take 1st position”. I was very unhappy at transferring to University Primary School because I lost many friends and it thoroughly had an effect on my performance as I rarely wanted to be in school.

Eventually, I took 1st place in primary 5, my father then changed his normal sermon to “score 100% in your exams”. In that same year, I gained 3rd position in the common entrance exams to enter into University Secondary School. Even after that accomplishment, I remember going for a drive with my father in his Mitsubishi and he was gesturing frantically while saying I should have taken 1st position in the common entrance so I could be recognised as the best student in the state.

I remember thinking to myself, “this guy is really nuts, what does he want? Perfection?” and that encounter and other countless similar ones, led to my belief that he was somewhat one-dimensional, a perfectionist in matters of academics alone. Perhaps this was because I was busy ‘perfecting’ my football skills and lacked the support from my father in these endeavours but then again, my father was an academic after all.

As I grew into a youth, I often reminisced on my father’s dramatic and animated speeches, I now understand he was encouraging my siblings and I to be perfect in all our activities, be it academic, leisure, relationships etc. and this I felt was a noble ambition worthy of my efforts. Perhaps my father wasn’t one-dimensional or eccentric after all. At this point, you might ask, why is perfection necessary?

Perfection based on Wikipedia’s definition, implies a state of completeness or wholeness. When an object is less than whole, it implies something is missing eg, if you had a body without a heart, you are missing an organ and are incomplete or someone stole an item from you, you become incomplete and would want to retrieve the item because it belongs to you and without it, you feel your belonging is missing.

However, perfection has often been misinterpreted by society as an unattainable quality attributable only to God. We often hear in churches, that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, and thus earthly beings​ should wait for the return of their saviour Jesus Christ, to make them whole again. This only ends in disempowerment of the masses and thence gives the impression to the masses that humans are less-worthy and should limit their ambitions until their saviour returns to make them ‘whole’ again.

Interestingly, the Bible says in Matthew 5:48 (NIV) “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect”. Thus, the Bible accepts that perfection is an ambition all earthly beings should strive towards, to be as they were created in the image of their creator. I wonder why this part of the Bile is largely ignored by unscrupulous churches.

In my opinion, perfection is very necessary; if we take a look in the earth today, there are wars, natural disasters and the seven deadly sins are prevalent. However, even scientists agree that, planet earth had ‘perfect’ conditions for the existence of life. So why all this turmoil? Why is nature crying out?

Assuming the earth was perfect in the beginning, bearing in mind, perfection means a state of completeness, flawlessness or wholeness, it is our utmost responsibility to make earth whole again. I mean the earth is our home, our connection to nature and consciousness and perhaps future of mankind depends on the wholeness of the earth.

To those who might say, is perfection a realistic ambition? I say, “practice makes perfect.” Perfection comes from the determination to improve incrementally, until you’ve mastered a skill. In today’s economy, it is widely acknowledged (perhaps in the developed world more than the developing) that skills are the new passport to employment, not degrees and then of course, Jesus Christ might look more favourably upon a person who is making efforts to improve all aspects of their character incrementally rather than procrastinating, waiting upon his return to make them whole again; recall the parable of the talents, where a master travels and gives his servants some talents, upon his return, rewarding the conscientious servants whilst admonishing the servant who didn’t attempt to increase their talents. 

Perfection is thus, not an utopian ideal, but a very realistic and achievable ambition in our lifetime but then again, I’ve always been unorthodoxically inclined from an early age. Perfection shouldn’t be perceived as unusual or difficult but​ rather as the norm. Wholeness or flawlessness, implies the quality of functioning correctly.

The earth and its inhabitants are not functioning correctly because they are imperfect and thus, incomplete. In Nigeria, where roads, political system, access to electricity and water, education system etc. are lacking perfection, our imperfect attitude is clearly shown hence why our outcomes are also imperfect.

Attitude, they say, determines altitude. Life is to be enjoyed, not tolerated and the masses in Nigeria, in my experience, have been tolerating and not enjoying life. We must each internalise perfection in our minds and perfect outcomes will surely follow. To those whose minds have been imprisoned by their negative experiences of an imperfect earth and who remain doubting of perfection as a realistic ambition, like Thomas, the disciple of Jesus Christ, I leave you with this, “if one voice can change a room, then it can change a city, and if it can change a city, it can change a nation, and if it can change a nation, then it can surely, change earth. Become the change you want to see”

Perfection can be the norm for every human. Perfection, like the daily habit of cleaning one’s self in the morning, begins with incrementally improving your attitudes until you are whole and it promulgates into every sphere of one’s existence, and together, we can all experience the necessary and realistic ambition that is perfection.

Happy Father’s Day to my perfect father and every perfect father out there.

Do you think perfection is necessary or a realistic ambition? Please share your thoughts. 

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