Over the last several months, God’s been working out so many deadly things in my heart, and at the root of each has been perfectionism, that trait people like to give as one of their weaknesses in job interviews because they believe it to be a strength they are disguising as a weakness. But it truly is a weakness — a deep root fertilized by pride.
I recall in grade school receiving a grade of 97 or 98 on more than one occasion, and instead of being pleased I head mastered so much, the two or three points missed would lap at my mind like waves against a stone wall. I was almost perfect. Missed it by that much.
It would be easy to see this as a self-esteem problem — and in a way it was, though opposite of what seems natural. It was a self-esteem too high, not too low. I wasn’t angry at myself or self-loathing: I was merely firmly convinced I was better than a 97. I knew it all and should’ve gotten it all right. I was prideful, even as a 10-year-old.
I’ve battled perfectionism all my life. My sister, Hannah, who has never seemed to have an ounce of perfectionism in her, knows this all too well. She won just about every board game, bowling match or card game we ever played as kids (at least that’s how I remember it…) and it would drive me crazy. And all the more because she couldn’t have cared less. Oddly enough, she’s pretty competitive these days, especially about Fantasy Football. Her husband Justin probably has me to thank for that, since I was always trying to convince her winning mattered.
The thing is, I know this about myself. I’ve repented of it. I’ve worked to stop it. I’ve become much less competitive and learned to give grace to myself in college and at work (though more reluctantly there). But here’s the problem:
I turned removing pride and perfectionism from my life into a challenge, and anything that is a challenge makes me want to do it perfectly.
And here’s the confession: I caught myself becoming a perfectionist about trying to not be a perfectionist. And that’s absurd. But God’s grace abounds, and He doesn’t condemn those who are known by the name of Jesus. He invites us to roll our cares off onto Him.
In a fantastic service at CITYLIGHTS several weeks back, the Lord reminded me, “I alone am perfection. You don’t have to be.” The weight lifted from my heart and head — a weight I’d tried to let go of many times — and I could see clearly how this heart issue was affecting my life right then. And the Lord said to let it go.
He’s had to remind me again since then, and I suspect there will need to be an encore, but I’m getting there. He’s taking me there. He’s a good God. He is mindful of us, and He does not leave us in our mangled state. He continually leads us towards Christ, to become more like Him.
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