A society that is too reality-focused always settles for the flavor of the day. This society allows itself to be carried away by the ebbs and flows of life in fatalistic surrender. It seldom strives to make tangible improvements. The people of that society are likely to say ‘well, there is nothing I can do about this’.
Now, while the positive aspect of being reality-focused is that it allows for peace of mind and unnecessary wrangling, the problem is that putting too much emphasis on reality allows for much needed improvements to fall in between the cracks. Moreover, people who are in overly reality-focused societies many times fail to live the best life for they are okay with just about anything.
Conversely, a society that is too ideal minded is never satisfied with the status quo. The people of these societies cannot stand it when things are not as they should be and are always looking for improvements. The people of these societies are likely to say ‘there must be something I can do about this’. Standing still and doing nothing is usually not an option for the ideal-focused society. Innovation is the name of the game!
Now, while the positive part of being ideal minded is that it always allows for continuous improvements, the snag is that people in these societies are never satisfied with where they are and so never truly get to be fully happy with life as it is.
If we attempt to divide the world into these two camps (ideal-minded versus reality-minded), we find that Africa is on one end of the spectrum with it being highly reality-minded while North America (especially the US) is on the other end with being highly ideal-minded. While this is great for the US with regards to living standards, it has a deleterious effect when it comes to the sphere of relationships. Let me explain.
Most people I know are looking for the man or woman of their dreams. For the ideal-minded believer, nobody but Jesus will do for only He is ideal or perfect! In fact, most people consider going for someone who does not look like Jesus as ‘settling’. Here is the problem: no one truly looks like Jesus yet because we are all being conformed to His image of daily (Romans 8:29). That means we are not ideal but simply heading towards it.
Unfortunately, most people out of fear of being single (because of not being ideal enough) set themselves up as being closer to being ideal than what they really are. In essence, they fool their partner into thinking they are something they are not. When finally the relationship happens, they both stop pretending and stop the charade overtime and then the partner sees the reality of who they are. Once past the initial shock, each partner starts to access whether they can live with the reality they now know. If they cannot, and the other person does not move any closer to a level of idealism that person can stand within a particular time horizon, the relationship suffers and is usually severed.
Why severed? It is because highly uncompromisingly ideal minded people set up for themselves unrealistic expectations that make them susceptible to being disappointed and hurt – even by the most menial offense. Once hurt, the ideal-minded person starts to look for ways to fix the problem because waiting it out is not an option. If Innovation (counseling, change, fearful control) does not work, then the ‘there must be something I can do about this’ query only leaves two options. Cheat by finding someone that seem closer to being ideal or sever the relationship! Seems a familiar problem doesn’t it?
See, the end of looking for perfection in people is unhappiness, loneliness, and depression.
In truth, we look for people who are perfect because we are afraid of getting hurt – so it comes from fear. Furthermore, it comes from a sense of entitlement or greed in that we are looking for something we are not ourselves. Unfortunately, when we do get something that seems perfect, we become afraid of losing it and then try to control the other person’s life. As a result, that person falls or starts to become imperfect.
Today, instead of trying to find someone who is ideal (perfect), look for someone who is chasing after the ideal – someone who desires to be conformed to the image of Christ. Befriend the person and make the person comfortable so they feel free to show you who they truly are. If you can cope with the reality of this person and this person is chasing after the ideal, then you have hit the jackpot in that things are only get better as the person continues to be conformed to the image of Christ.
Food for Thought: Is my unrealistic expectation of perfection the root of my unhappiness? Is it driving people away and encouraging them to be phony around me?