I used to be a perfectionist. While I don’t describe myself as a perfectionist any longer, I do like things to go well. I don’t like mistakes. But I can accept it when I make a mistake; I can move on and not let it get under my skin. I can even laugh at myself.
Part of what helped undo my perfectionism was being part of Manitou Conference of The United Church of Canada. When I was ordained (back in 1989), I was sent to Manitou Conference in Northern Ontario to a small town called Matheson; I served the Matheson Pastoral Charge for 6 years and loved it there.
What I appreciated about Manitou Conference was that it was a small conference and we could get to know our colleagues. I also appreciated the fact that new ministers were encouraged to take on leadership roles. Within a year of coming to Matheson, I was serving on the Conference Ministry, Personnel & Education Committee with its concomitant responsibilities of Settlement, Interview Board and Internship. I served as secretary.
The other encouragement I had in Manitou Conference was around music. I was asked to lead the music at one of our conference meetings. I sing and can play the guitar. I used to direct our choir at St. Andrew’s in Matheson. I grew up with music—my mom was a piano teacher, organist and choir director. I put together a little band and we led the music at conference; it was great!
It was also a great teaching tool. I am not a professional musician. I make mistakes, but I play with passion and integrity. At the conference during which I led the music, I made plenty of mistakes. But we sang over them and played with joy and passion. What I remember people saying afterwards was that they appreciated the integrity of the music and playing, the passion and the joy, and that the mistakes didn’t matter.
That conference meeting was a great learning experience. I learned that I could make mistakes and continue to be who I was. Mistakes didn’t diminish me. I wasn’t conquered by my mistakes. I learned how to acknowledge my mistakes, learn and grow and move on. I could let my perfectionism go… at least a little bit!
Acknowledging my mistakes came to the fore after yesterday’s worship (July 12th). I made a mistake, a very glaring mistake, in the communal prayer in the 4 directions. I mixed up east and west! I didn’t really think about it at the time nor when I wrote the prayer. Janet asked me about it later in the day. Ooops! And what makes it funnier is that I said, later in my sermon, that when I’m hiking, I have a good sense of direction!! Ooops!
But I let the mistake go. I actually laughed out loud about it. Many years ago I would have agonized over my mistake. Today, I’m comfortable enough in my own skin that I can laugh at myself.
Of course, being part of a community of trust and love certainly helps. I trust the people with whom I work and worship. We don’t belittle each other, but support each other with love and compassion. I can live with my mistakes because people can live with me and hold me in love.