“ Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48 NIV)
“You, therefore, will be perfect [growing into spiritual maturity both in mind and character, actively integrating godly values into your daily life], as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48 AMP)
Perfectionists are always super-driven Type A personalities; at least that’s what I thought for quite a long time. As I don’t particularly fit that description, I also always thought I couldn’t possibly be a perfectionist! (Maybe you’ve been there too?) Yet, after many years of “perfecting” my own particular brand of perfectionism, I’ve realized this isn’t necessarily the case.
This issue was brought to my attention again after reading Glynnis Whitwer’s book, Taming the To-Do List. As painful as it is to admit, the following quote pretty much describes me:
“We can lose perspective on what matters most and be internally driven to control situations and opinions of others through our work. Only we end up frustrated because we can’t even meet our own expectations, much less the supposed expectations of others. And so perfectionists believe they’ll never measure up and are highly self-condemning. Who needs enemies when we have such a brilliant inner critic?”
That last line about having a “brilliant inner critic” inside of us is usually my own internal default mode in situations that I can’t control. And that part about ending up frustrated “because we can’t even meet our own expectations, much less the supposed expectations of others” is something I realized about myself long ago. To see these traits spelled out in black and white while describing a perfectionist certainly made me stand up and take notice – and not necessarily in a good way.
Yet this chapter, “Taming Our Perfectionist Instincts,” offers hope and not condemnation for those of us struggling with perfectionism. While the author doesn’t sugarcoat the problems associated with the issue, she also shares some ideas to help us deal with our perfectionist tendencies. Here is one such gem:
“Perfectionism is the enemy of learning and growing and enjoying areas of life where we haven’t achieved mastery. Which, if you’re like me, are most areas of life…What a relief it is for me to admit my humanity. When I accept that I’m imperfect but able to learn and grow, I’m not threatened by a mistake. It’s just a speed bump on my journey of improving, not a dead-end. I don’t need to detour around a challenge either; rather I can welcome it as an opportunity to learn.” (Taming the To-Do List)
Let me tell you friends, feeling “threatened by a mistake” or always having a fear of failure is no way to live! But I love her suggestion about how to tackle this when she says, “what a relief it is for me to admit my humanity.” That’s all that is necessary. I simply have to admit I’m human (and therefore not perfect!) and then the hold perfectionism has over me will be greatly lessened.
This is a great tool which I really need to be reminded of right now – especially as I go back to school this fall after many years away from the classroom. In the past I used academics and intelligence to define my identity and therefore these have always been places that brought out my perfectionism. So I am worried that on some level school will still be a trigger for me in this area. Which is why I needed to hear the following excerpt as well:
“When we hold ourselves to a standard of perfection we were never meant to meet, we too miss out on God’s adventure of faith for us…Rather than having perfection as our goal, could we make authenticity our goal? Could we strive to accept ourselves with the diverse set of strengths and weaknesses that make us uniquely us? Walking in the freedom of being me, with my potential for growth and improvement intact, brings me peace and confidence. And those are not based on the perfection of my achievements but rather on God’s perfect acceptance of me.” (Taming the To-Do List)
I love that last line which also makes me think of Lamentations 3:21-24: “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
If I can just hold this truth close to my heart, as well as some of the other lessons I learned about through my readings, then I also can have such hope. And, as a recovering perfectionist, I will be finally relying on God’s acceptance instead of my own achievements. This could be huge for me – and maybe it could be for you too?
**I’m linking up with Holley Gerth’s Coffee for Your Heart today. Click on the image below to find other great posts in the linkup too!**