Latter-day Saint Life

Your job isn’t to be perfect. It’s to stay close to the One who can perfect you

Senior Woman Washing Dishes
“Let the hot water do its work.”
Stefania Pelfini, La Waziya Phot/Getty Images

I scrubbed and scrubbed to no avail. I couldn’t get the plate clean.

Normally, as a preteen I wouldn’t care. But I was washing dishes with Grandma Parker, who had a bright laugh, great hair, and very high standards. I wanted to make her proud. But the food stuck resolutely to the plate, mocking me, showing Grandma I wasn’t a good cleaner like her.

Finally, Grandma gently put her hand on mine and stopped my scrubbing. She filled the sink with hot water and then gently lowered the plate. Smiling, she said, “Let the hot water do its work.”

After a few minutes, Grandma pulled the plate out of the water and handed it to me. The food was still there, but now it wiped off easily.

Let the hot water do the work.

Fast forward forty years. I was talking with a friend who’d been struggling under the weight of expectations. She’d tried to parent her kids in love and patience, read her scriptures every day, keep her house spotless, perform well at her job, and make everyone around her happy. She had tried and tried to do and be everything she was supposed to be to no avail. The reality was that she wasn’t nor would ever be enough, let alone perfect. She felt she was a failure.

I have felt her pain. I’ve struggled with the burden of enough and perfectionism much of my life. I have wanted to do enough and be enough for everyone one around me and for God. And, invariably, I would come up short. I couldn’t and wouldn’t reach perfection. I failed and would continue to fail my entire life. Still I was determined to at least try. I mean, that’s what we were supposed to do, right? Try our best? Try harder each day to be perfect like Jesus?

But, over the years as I’ve pulled apart a complicated relationship with perfection, I’ve come to learn one very important truth:

My job isn’t to be perfect, but to get and stay close to the One who can perfect me.

This truth took a long time to digest. No matter how hard I try, I cannot check enough boxes to reach perfection because I am simply not capable of perfecting myself. It’s not expected of me. It’s not my job. Perfection is the Savior’s job, His purpose, His love. He is the one who changes my character and my heart. He is the one who refines me and defines me.

I needed to take my grandma’s sage advice deeper, immerse myself in the Savior, and let Him do His work.

Finding Beauty in Sufficient

Figuring out what that looks like has also been a journey. My relationship with enough and perfectionism was complicated. Thankfully, God has given me guidance and answers along the way. A few years ago He taught me the revelatory truth that I don’t have to be enough for people, just my part of their enough.

More recently, He has guided to me another concept that has offered me an even deeper greater sense of liberation, empowerment, and hope.

It is folded into one word: sufficient.

It may not seem like a beautiful word, but it’s a beautiful and powerful concept. Sufficient isn’t about doing and being enough or even perfect, it’s about obtaining what’s needed to be close to the One who can make us perfect, or whole.

In my study of sufficient, I discovered the scriptures don’t speak of doing or being enough in the way we use it today. However, they do speak of having sufficient, specifically sufficient hope (see Moroni 7:3), sufficient faith (see 3 Nephi 17:8), sufficient humility (see Ether 9:35), and sufficient repentance (see Alma 24:11). Each of these verses point to a gift or principle that bring us closer to the Savior. This is what He wants—not for us to do and be more, but to have what’s needed to be close to Him so He can make us more.

Perfection isn’t about performance, it’s about proximity.

It isn’t about becoming like Jesus Christ right now but becoming near Him right now. That is where the magic of change, progression, and conversion happens—in His presence. We are perfected in Him (see Moroni 10:32–33).

Take a moment and let your mind wrap around this concept. Let your heart rest in it. We do not have to keep trying to do or be enough for Heavenly Father, the Savior, ourselves, or anyone else around us. We do not have to be perfect, or even close to it. This is not about us being like Jesus right now. It’s about us drawing near to Him and putting ourselves in a position for His grace to work in and for us.

What Does Sufficient Look Like?

Sufficient is a concept of movement—what do we need in this moment to come closer to Jesus Christ. In this respect, our individual “sufficient” will look different.

I’ve seen the beauty of sufficient all around me. Sufficient looks like my good friend who came to church smelling like cigarettes. It looks like my mother sitting at my bedside when I was hurting. Sufficient looks like my gay friend saying his first prayer in months. It looks like my daughter opening her scriptures to read after a long day of school and work. It looks like my dear friend getting out of bed after she tragically lost her daughter. And it looks like my sweet friend walking into her bishop’s office to talk. It is the focus on and movement toward Christ.

It is also a concept of mindset.

Most times, trading the burden of enough for the beauty of sufficient might not seem to have a significant impact on our daily lives. We will still read our scriptures, attend our meetings, say our prayers, minister, worship in the temple, and so on. However, one of the biggest differences between enough and sufficient is inside—it’s the why we do these things, the lens in which we see through.

It's the difference between a self or Savior-centric approach to life.

Self-Centric Verses Savior-Centric

Striving to do and be enough is often a self-centric pursuit of enough. It’s about ourselves. Our eyes are drawn to the unreachable goal of perfection in our performance and in ourselves in how we look, what we do, and who we are.

However, when we focus on Savior-centric sufficient, our eyes are drawn to the reachable goal of being near the Savior. It’s about Him. He is where we will find our peace, our strength, and our perfection.

As I’ve begun to trade enough for sufficient and look through a Savior-centric lens, my prayers are no longer apologies for my failures or even myself as a person, but a joint inventory with Him about the strength of my hope, faith, humility, and repentance. Rather than looking at what I need to do to be closer to perfection, I look what how close I feel to Him and my Savior and pray about what I need to have to be closer to Them.

I don’t read my scriptures to reach a daily quota, but rather, I read them to be closer to Him. I see ministering as a chance to work with Them, rather than just work. Rather than reading scriptures, looking at my phone, or struggling with shame, the sacrament is a time of reflection and re-covenanting as I bind myself to Them once again. My repentance is not a shame-riddled apology for not being enough, but a joyous effort to adjust to heart and mind as I reunite with Him.

A sweet young adult friend shared with me the impact her journey with sufficient has had on her life. “The concept of self-centric vs. Savior-centric is unique and beautiful. I like how it makes me think about how I view my needs. When enough is my guiding force, I am thinking about how I am failing. When sufficient is my guide, I am thinking how the Savior is how I am able to accomplish everything. We are bringing the focus back to the Savior, and therefore uniting our thoughts and actions to be more in line with Him.”1

Like my sweet friend, I too find strength in knowing that when I am leaning on Jesus Christ and the power of His Atonement, I can't fail in the things He's asked me to do.

Looking through a Savior-centric lens, I find I’m moving away from fear, temptations to control, guilt, and shame, and directly towards God and Jesus Christ. But, it's not always easy. The self-centric lens of enough is hard to escape from.

An Example of Sweet Escape

I received a blessing of comfort recently where I was encouraged to “go to the temple more to strengthen my faith.” My first response was a feeling of inadequacy. I attend the temple at least once a month already. Wasn’t doing enough? And my faith is strong. Wasn’t I faithful enough? I thought I had been doing okay and now I was being told to do more. I walked away feeling frustrated with God and myself.

After stewing about this for a few hours, I suddenly realized what I was doing. I had been looking to the blessing through the lens of enough. I had interpreted what was said as though I wasn’t doing enough, that I wasn’t enough. I was making it about me—a self-centric view. The realization startled me.

I said a prayer, then considered again what I was encouraged in my blessing: “Go to the temple more to strengthen my faith.” When I looked at the words through the Savior-centric lens of sufficient and realized Heavenly Father wasn’t reprimanding me; He was inviting me to His house so He could strengthen my faith. A gentle warmth confirmed my correct interpretation.

Funny how the same words could be seen as a condemnation or an invitation depending on the lens I chose to look through.

As we embrace the movement and mindset of sufficient, we can let go of the burden of unrealistic expectations, unnecessary guilt, and debilitating shame. Perhaps this is what the Savior meant when He said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

And here is the greatest beauty of sufficient: Jesus Christ’s grace is sufficient for us (see Moroni 10:32). Whether we are running towards Him with a joyous heart or only inching towards Him because questions, heartache, or fear are pressing me down, He meets us exactly where we are. His grace can strengthen us, teach us, and transform us right now. He can comfort us.

Our sufficient allows Him to make us whole.

▶ You may also like: The ‘Come, Follow Me’ goal I should have set years ago (that you might want to copy)

1. M. Hoesch, personal communication, March 20, 2023

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