Yesterday, we had our last musical event of “the school year” – the girls’ piano (Gracie) & voice (Ashley) recital. I have to admit, I was a little nervous for them. Every time I think of piano recitals, I am swiftly transported to one of mine – the year that I totally forgot the music in my mind and sat there on the bench, frozen for what seemed like an eternity, only to get up and run from the room in embarrassment.
I know I had many successful piano recitals. I played numerous duets with my friend Patty – and we always did great with them. And there was the time I totally nailed “The Spinning Song” (all these years later, despite rarely sitting down at the piano, I can still play most of that song by memory). So why is it that those bad moments are the ones that stick in our mind – why are they the ones that we allow to define us?
In talking with my mom on Saturday morning over breakfast, she asked if the girls were nervous about their upcoming recital. I reminded her how I was always very nervous, and how I wished that she wasn’t in the audience. She said something like “Oh, I hope I wasn’t critical of you – I was always very proud of you and your playing.” I’m sure this is true. I don’t remember her ever criticizing my playing. Yet, there was something within me that really wanted to make her proud by being perfect. And, as I sat there, it struck me that I hope my kids don’t feel that way about me – I hope I don’t make them uncomfortable, and I hope they don’t feel like they have to be perfect in order for me to be proud of them.
The kids and I ate lunch at Pizza Hut on Friday. I looked out of the corner of my eye to see a very tall guy at the buffet. His height was what originally drew my attention, but the phrase on the back of his t-shirt kept it. It said “Strive for Perfection, Settle for Excellence”. I didn’t even realize that it stuck with me, ‘til it popped back into my head this morning.
I looked it up online to see if I could find where the phrase originated. I didn’t find who came up with the phrase, but I found several companies using it as their tagline or motto. I did find this quote by Vince Lombardi, which very well could have been the basis for it – “Gentlemen, we are going to relentlessly chase perfection, knowing full well we will not catch it, because nothing is perfect. But we are going to relentlessly chase it, because in the process we will catch excellence. . . I am not remotely interested in just being good.”
As Christians, we know that there was only ever one perfect person who walked this earth – Jesus Christ. And we are told in the Scriptures that we are to look to Him as our example, and seek to live our lives like Him. But, we also have to remember that as long as we are living in this fallen world, we can never be totally perfect. We’re going to stumble along the way – whether it’s sitting on that piano bench or walking through life.
Yesterday, there was a young lady at the recital who just could not play her song no matter how many times she started over. My heart was breaking for her – because I remembered being in her shoes. But, rather than getting up and running from the room (as I once did), she stood up, walked gracefully back to her seat, picked up her music from under her chair, went back to the piano, sat down, and played that piece beautifully. I wish I would have told her afterwards how very proud I was of her. I hope that, in the years to come, she remembers the positive, rather than the negative.
Don’t expect your children to be perfect – they can’t. We can’t. But, if we are doing it right, they can strive (and should be striving) for perfection. The notch right below it is excellence – and excellence sure does make a parent proud!