I have always held high expectations for myself. Some have been too high and I belittled myself when I failed. I felt wholly inadequate whenever I would read, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5: 48). When I was younger and understood the stern reprimands of repentance more than grace, patience, and God’s love, I even thought life would be much easier if I was baptized when I was 90 and then died the next day. That way I would be assured eternal life!
Now I realize that baptism does not equal perfection. We are clean when we come out of the water, but not perfect. To be clean is to be forgiven of sin. To be perfect is to be whole or complete. It is possible to be clean and imperfect at the same time. For me, the key to understanding this was by recognizing the difference between sin and weakness. In her book Weakness is not Sin, Sister Wendy L. Ulrich, Ph.D. explained that sin is “willful rebellion against God”, while weaknesses are “human limitations and vulnerabilities that come with our natural bodies” (p. 34). Weaknesses are given to us by a loving Father in Heaven who knows it is necessary for us to learn how to overcome them through humility and faith. As long as we recognize our sins, repent of them, and pray for strength in overcoming our weaknesses, we are closer to perfection every day. As the apostle Paul said, “For when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Cor. ).
I had weaknesses when I was 8, I still have them now. Some I have overcome, some are still around, and some have developed since. I have realized that I will never reach perfection in this life. No one will.
Brad Wilcox has explained, “Even those who end up in the celestial kingdom will still be engaged in the perfecting process. In D&C 76:60 we learn that ‘they shall overcome all things’, not that they already have. This life ‘is the time to prepare to meet God’ (
I know my weaknesses and I’m working on them a little bit at a time, sometimes a lot at a time. I am growing closer to my Savior and as I do, I feel His spirit compensating for the areas in which I lack. His grace does what I cannot. If I died tomorrow, I have the most perfect feeling of assurance that I would be worthy of the celestial kingdom because I am doing my best to keep His commandments. This is not pride; it is faith and hope.
Knowledge of the difference between sin and weakness freed me from self-contempt over my inadequacies! Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught, “He who was thrust down in the first estate delights to have us put ourselves down. Self-contempt is of Satan; there is none of it in heaven. We should, of course, learn from our mistakes, but without forever studying the instant replays as if these were the game of life itself” ("Notwithstanding My Weakness", Ensign, Nov. 1976, 12). I no longer mind if my visiting teachers come over and my house is messy. It is okay if I accidentally burn the cookies. I can smile when we go to the store and my children’s clothes are mismatched. Alone I am an inadequate, but with my Savior by my side and I am more than adequate!
Perfection is not expected in this life. Fears of not being enough are whispered in our ears by the father of all lies to discourage us from even trying. I am grateful for my Heavenly Father who loved us enough to send a Savior to heal our hearts, calm our fears, and provide peace to our souls. "Be ye therefore perfect" is an invitation, not a condemnation. One day we will be perfect. Until then, our best is enough.