Living For Jesus

Looking for Perfection

I recently made a purchase from a used bookseller at Amazon. Through no fault of the seller, the book I had ordered and paid for was unavailable. She promptly let me know and refunded my money. That would have been that, except that Amazon sends out feedback requests, and I decided to leave feedback on this seller. I had a positive experience with this seller, so I left her what I thought was a good feedback response. I got a sweet little note from her not thanking me for my good report, but begging that I remove it. I’d given her a 4 out of 5 response because I hadn’t been able to evaluate all her service, and that had brought her average down. She’d had a 5 star rating.

You might think that a rating of 4 ½ stars wasn’t significantly different from a rating of 5 stars. In this case, it stopped all her orders. As a single mom with three kids this was devastating to her. She’d fallen afoul of our growing demand for perfection in all our encounters. There must be something wrong with a seller that has only a 4½ star rating, so I’d better not buy from them.

It’s not the first time lately that I’ve run into this demand for perfection. My husband and I were waiting in line to be seated at a restaurant in Virginia City; a town devoted entirely to tourism. The cashier was ringing up another patron’s bill and made the standard statement hoping that everything was good. The woman’s response was, “No, it wasn’t. But I don’t want to bother with it.” The cashier, all of eighteen, was left looking uncomfortable not knowing how to respond to an accusation that wasn’t an accusation. The woman had made the statement in an angry tone of voice as if there really were a problem. The problem, however, wasn’t significant enough for her to even let the cashier know what it was. My guess was that she hadn’t had a perfect meal or been served as quickly as she expected.

Life isn’t perfect, and yet all too often we demand that others be perfect. When we make mistakes, we dearly hope for forgiveness and grace. Sure there will be times when the person causing you problems needs to be corrected, but boorishly demanding perfection when you don’t know the truth behind what caused the problems, is just mean spirited. Some Americans seem to have taken on the persona of the stereotypical aristocrat treating those who serve them as servants and therefore lesser beings. In the case of the restaurant, the dishwasher was causing problems. He’d refused to wash dishes and had forced them to serve drinks in paper cups and move someone else from their regular duties to cover his—a chain reaction that slowed service considerably.

I’ve always taken Amazon ratings with a grain of salt knowing that one dissatisfied customer can sink a reputation. I don’t look at the stars. I look at what the people with the low stars have to say and compare them to what the people with the high stars have to say. It’s not hard to spot when a low rating is due to someone’s expecting more than they should and when someone has a legitimate beef. Apparently, most customers just look at the stars.

One of the ways that we can be salt and light in the world as Christians is to offer grace rather than demand perfection. To do that takes time, time to ask the questions that reveal the reasons behind the problems we see. We’re called to put others before ourselves. Who knows what problems that forgetful waitress is experiencing at home that leave her distracted or unresponsive. If you ask yourself what would Jesus do, you know it would never include chewing her out or leaving her a no-tip tip. Yes, he could see into the heart of people and know what was going on inside. He walked by the power of the Holy Spirit. Who, by the way, is available to us even though we don’t perfectly hear him all the time. We have to work a little harder because of our faults, but that doesn’t give us the excuse not to try. Jesus didn’t call us to demand perfection of others, but to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. When we show others grace, we show them the very heart of God.

Copyright ©  2005 Beverly S. Krueger