On Perfection

Brene Brown has the clearest explanations of how perfectionism holds us back in my opinion

There’s a trend with Christian authors, particularly women. Somewhere in their late 30’s-40’s they write a book about how they’ve spent their whole lives striving for the wrong things. The gerbil wheel has become too much, and in their desperate feelings of failure God has revealed they aren’t perfect, they never will be apart from him, and their true calling is surrender.

I’m not sure what it is about 40, but since I’m closer every year to that I can take a guess. Life has been lived. College career goals have either been realized or moved on from. Most have been married long enough to realize it is the thing that reveals much of our selfishness followed closely by children which will inform the rest of our selfish tendencies along with impatience and fear.

Each book has a beautiful story of personal struggle, understanding and receiving God’s grace and encouragement. These books are written because they have a deep desire for others to skip the hard road they have traveled, or at least to walk it more equipped to handle the bumps.

The thing about the hard lessons, though, is that we have to learn them our own way, in our own time, or they won’t sink in. At some point, we will discover an area of our lives we think we have complete control over. We will be oddly protective or prideful or both of this area. It might be our body, our grades, our hair, our children, our relationships or a combination of a few things. Others will tell us to relax or let it go, and that might even make sense, but it won’t happen.

Perfection is so common hundreds of studies have been done on what happens to those striving for it in areas of their lives. Consider the list below:

Signs-you-are-a-perfectionist-683x1024

If you look at this list, not all things are negative. Specifically, 5 and 6 can be very helpful when it comes to completing school assignments or working towards your degree. The thing is, the other 8 on this particular list can very quickly cancel out any positives. An additional thing to consider when it comes to this list is that the characteristics here are likely ones that you are repelled by in others.

As Brene Brown said earlier on the video link, there is baggage that comes with the striving for perfection. Shame can quickly become the brick wall that surrounds a person’s heart making it impossible to understand. Ironically, this can be utterly frustrating for the perfectionist who wonders “Can’t you see how hard I’m trying?”

In Galatians 3:1-4 Paul reminds the born-again believers, many who were at Pentecost, that it was not by following the strict Jewish laws to perfection that would allow them to enter heaven. I love the Message version!

Galatians 3:1-4 The Message (MSG)

You crazy Galatians! Did someone put a hex on you? Have you taken leave of your senses? Something crazy has happened, for it’s evident that you no longer have the crucified Jesus in clear focus in your lives. His sacrifice on the cross was certainly set before you clearly enough.

2-4 Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God’s Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it? Did you go through this whole painful learning process for nothing? It is not yet a total loss, but it certainly will be if you keep this up!

Paul made it pretty clear that actions, even if perfect, weren’t the thing to strive for. He says it’s crazy to think personal efforts will be the answer. Sometimes when we are in the midst of striving for perfection we feel crazy, don’t we? When it comes to perfectionism, it rears itself differently for everyone, but when we look closely it’s there.

What have you been held back from out of fear of failure? What haven’t you started because you couldn’t get it just right?

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