Why do simple…

There is an expression in French that resonates with me. It goes like this: Pourquoi faire simple quand on peut faire compliqué? Quite literally, it means, Why do simple when we can do complicated?

Think about that for a second. This so perfectly encapsulates both the perfectionist’s modus operandi and the self-same perfectionist’s excuse for never getting anything done.

The expression is used usually in a humorous context, and usually gently points out to someone ways in which they are making their own life more complicated than it needs to be.

Just right now, without giving it too much thought, I can come up with a dozen ways in which I complicate my life, making it impossible to live up to my own standards.

Just take a second and think about that. In how many ways to you make your own life more complicated than it needs to be? How do you feel about those domains of your life where you have complicated things?

Naaman’s rage

There is a Bible story in 2 Kings 5, where a commander of a King’s army, who has leprosy, calls on the prophet Elisha to heal him of his condition. The prophet sends word back telling the commander to just wash a few times in the Jordan river and he will be healed.

Naaman has the most amazingly relatable reaction, and this is what got me thinking about my favorite French phrase:

But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage.

Why do simple when you can do complicated, right? Naaman’s thought process is spelled out right there for us. He really wanted to be healed. He had an expectation of what that healing would look like, and clearly, this was not it.

Naaman “knew” how this was supposed to go: the prophet would come to him, the prophet would give a big loud prayer, there would be a few choreographed gestures and then he would be healed. Naaman even acknowledges, okay, so even if it’s not that, at least the water of a different river, a better river. Twice in one little paragraph, we’re told that he was angry. Not just angry: he was in a rage.

He could not accept the idea that something so simple could be the solution to something that was literally eating away at his flesh.

Simple wins the day

Well, apparently there were people who knew him well enough, who had enough credibility in his eyes to confront him about his reaction. Because this happened next:

Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!”

And thanks to their intervention, Naaman went, did what he was told to do and he was healed.

Naaman went back and recognized that God had done something huge in his life in the most simple possible way, and he made a big investment in God’s work. We don’t know much about what became of him after that, but we do know is that what happened was important enough to make it into this book.

Perfectionism

I am a perfectionist. I think that’s why I love that French expression so much. It resonates with me, because it is a fantastic justification for never actually doing anything. There are dozens of dreams that I would have loved to pursue, but I was too afraid of failing at because I couldn’t be perfect the first time out.

The story of Naaman illustrates with such clarity our expectation that we should demand big, complicated things, both of ourselves, and of others. He is enraged when he is told to do something small.

How does that rage compare to the one I can feel when I sit back and look at all the missed opportunities, all the ways in which I have procrastinated my way into disappointment. Why? Because I wanted to do big things.

I wanted to do big things, really really well, but I wasn’t willing to do the little things really really mediocrely while I learned to get better. Or, as Allie Cooper, the amazing aerialist quoted so poignantly,

Sucking at something is the first step at being kinda good at something.

Heather Chelan AKA hebontheweb (the link takes you to the song which is simply fantastic and you should memorize it.)

The voice of reason

May I put my nose in where it doesn’t belong for a second? May I pretend to be someone who has enough credibility in your eyes to say something that isn’t going to necessarily going to sound nice?

Stop waiting for the big things to happen for you. Stop procrastinating because you can’t do the first step perfectly. Learn to be perfectly imperfect.

What if all it takes to see big things happen for you is to stop waiting for the big things to work out and to start doing the myriad little tiny things that you may not do perfectly?

Sucking at something is the first step to getting kinda good at something.

I know you, my perfectionist doppelganger. Let’s drop the superiority complex and pride that we use to protect us from our disappointment. For a few weeks this summer, let’s just start doing a few things we suck at. There is great power in just seeing things get done. Who knows. We might even get kinda good at it.

Published by Lily Fields

I am passionate about contentment. This is a challenge, because I am equally passionate about progress. I get up at 4:00AM to chip away at a solution to this monolithic problem: how to make progress on my contentment. Born and raised in the USA, I married a French philosophy teacher in 1999. We have lived in France since 2007. We stayed young and carefree until life threw us two curveballs in the form of little humans one after another in 2015 and 2017 respectively. Now I am a slightly older, slightly more exhausted version of myself, but with mystery stains on my walls and a never-ending pile of laundry.

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