I confess. I searched Pinterest for an idea for this article. But as soon as I saw it, I knew. The following quote is one that should be second-nature to me as a Special Education teacher. I often beg parents to celebrate gains instead of fixating on goals that seem unreachable. That said, sometimes we all need to be reminded. So, without further ado, here is the brilliant yet simple quote that gave me inspiration:
“Applaud progress, not perfection.”
Isn’t this what the Apostle Paul was trying to encourage in his readers when he said:
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)
As a teacher of students who have deficits they are trying to overcome, I celebrate the gains. If I don’t, it is very easy for my students to feel defeated and want to quit. By third and fourth grade they realize that they may have to try harder than some of their friends. It is my job to help them close those gaps and celebrate their progress on the way. That’s why I reward effort as much as ends. Yes, we have goals, but we publicize and praise each positive step toward that goal.
In terms of my spiritual life, I certainly know that I haven’t made it to perfection! And boy does Satan like to make me concentrate on those flaws. He knows that if he can make me feel worthless I won’t keep striving forward! But I do see progress in myself. I see growth in areas of former weakness even though new areas of need may arise.
And thankfully, we have a Father who praises effort. Consider the parable of the talents in Matthew 25. The only servant who was chastised is the one who made no effort. The servant with a gain of two talents was praised in the same way as the one who gained 5.
Instead of letting Satan discourage you with your mistakes, let God encourage you for your efforts: “…if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Jesus did tell His followers to “be perfect” even as their Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48). This command is there to point us to the goal.
Like Paul, let us all “press on!”
AUTHOR: Amber Tatum