Excellence Series, part 3 of 7 (click here for the introduction and links to each post)
I have a mild obsession with words.
I love to look up their definitions, then look up the words I find in the definitions.
So, of course, I looked up the definition of obsession. According to Webster’s 1828 dictionary, the word obsession was “little used” at that time. It was certainly not used the way we use it today:
OBSESS’ION, n. The act of besieging; the first attack of Satan antecedent to possession. [Little used.]
On further investigation, though, this old definition fits better than I first thought. A modern dictionary puts it this way:
obsession |əbˈseSHən| noun
the state of being preoccupied with someone or something continually, intrusively, or to a troubling extent
But can’t an obsession with good things be a good thing?
Give me one pure and holy passion
Give me one magnificent obsession
Give me one glorious ambition for my life
To know and follow hard after You
One Pure and Holy Passion; Written by Mark Altrogge
That’s a good obsession if there ever was one. And wouldn’t an obsession with excellence be another?
Prose = words in their best order; poetry = the best words in their best order.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge in Tabletalk 12 July 1827.
When I write, I want to use the best words in their best order, even when I don’t intend to make my writing public. My desire is for excellent expression, but sometimes that good desire becomes so intrusive that I don’t bother to write anything at all.
Likewise, once I have written something, I hover over the “publish” button or hesitate to put letter into envelope because I wonder if what I have written is good enough to share.
An obsession with excellence can lead to paralysis. And no matter how I try to rationalize my perfectionism, it boils down to sin, because if a person has something good to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.
I must listen to the wisdom of Robert Frost who said, “A poem is never finished, it’s only deserted,” and be willing to let my words be what they will, covering them with prayer and allowing them to be used however my Lord sees fit.