What about the other 0.1%? If you can’t give me a guarantee, I won’t do it.
Now, the truth is, COVID is scary and wearing a mask makes the threat seem somehow more real. Many folks don’t wear masks, because denial is less threatening than the truth.
The Demand for Perfection and Climate Change
The demand for perfection also rears its ugly little head in discussions about climate. The argument goes:
They can’t even predict tomorrow’s weather. What makes you think we can trust their climate models?
Whenever the models improve, folks demand more precision, moving the goalposts out, one little step at a time.
Fear drives this too. By demanding more and more perfection, folks keep putting off the day when they might have to confront their fears, accept climate change is real, and do something.
The Demand for Perfection and Race
Finally, we also see it in race issues. Here, folks refuse to accept pleas for action, because the people that are pushing for it aren’t perfect. For example, a leader may have said something in the past we feel is insensitive and even racist today. Now they are pushing for change. So, folks protest:
We don’t need to listen to them. Their past behaviour proves their motives aren’t pure. So, we don’t need to do anything.
This ignores the genuine changes in cultural norms over the years and our ability to learn and grow.
The Demand for Perfection – A Personal Example
Many years ago, I made some changes in my personal life, when I grew to understand some of my old values were insensitive. I remember the day well. I decided to change and I felt like a weight had lifted off my shoulders.
We had guests in for dinner that evening. In conversation, I shared my moment of enlightenment. But one of our dinner guests lashed out at me for ever having those values the first place. They ignored the growth and used the opportunity to take me to task.
This was over forty years ago, but I still remember my anger and resentment. I felt, why bother, it doesn’t make any difference . But Joan took me aside and reassured me that growth is important, seeing the light is important, and change is important too.
Demanding Perfection – We Can Grow
So it is with all of these issues. Attitudes change for the better over time, and we can all grow. Nothing is perfect. None of us are perfect. We’ve all made mistakes. But as long as we are willing to grow, we can do better.
In all these cases, demanding perfection puts the breaks on progress. Sometimes, we need to see beyond perfect to map the way to a better, safer, and kinder future.