Perfect. Such a nice word. If only everything could be perfect, life would be much neater, cleaner somehow.
The Merriam Webster Online Dictionary defines the word “perfect” as, Being entirely without fault or defect. Flawless. Satisfying all requirements. Being completely correct or accurate.
Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?
I spent so many years chasing that word, driven by that ideal. To be without defect. Flawless. I felt perhaps, that if I found this place called Perfect, that I would be free. I would arrive. I could breathe.
I unconsciously believed that my intrinsic worth was something I could earn. Or had to earn. I thought Perfect was a friend. It wasn’t.
Perfect was such a heavy weight to carry for such a little girl. Yet I gladly did. As the years passed by though, the weight grew heavier, more unbearable. I began to trip under the weight of the unattainable, the insurmountable.
The more I worked for it, the more obsessed I became, and the more I began to stumble. Unravel. Teeter on the brink. Panic became routine in my tremored efforts to attain this word I could speak and yet never quite claim as my own.
I never realized how much damage, how much destruction this one little word “perfect” could do.
Most of us struggle to live out an ideal of what we think life should be, of who we think we should be. We struggle to get up out of bed for another day with our lists, our expectations, our goals. We set the bar so high, we could never attain. Never achieve – anything but sheer exhaustion. Emptiness.
Is this what God intended for us? Is this the abundant life He promised?
The drive for perfection will always leave us scraping at the bottom of the barrel. The pursuit of perfection will always leave us hopeless, drained, done.
So how do we overcome the insidious pull toward perfection? How do we find the abundance and peace we are so desperate for?
I have found four ways to release perfection and embrace a life of peace.
Every time I become aware of the word perfect stirring inside, I acknowledge this stirring, as pale as it may be. I consciously give myself permission to be gloriously imperfect. I stop. I let myself off the hook. I accept my imperfections, embrace them, and begin to celebrate them. This side of heaven, I will never be perfect. What a relief!
You don’t have to be perfect. No human being is perfect. Jesus didn’t come for the perfect. He came for you. Just as you are. Plain yet beautiful, imperfect yet beloved. I am His beloved. You are His beloved. Our worth is settled – once and for all.
Yes, as an historic perfectionist, I long for control. I love control. Control allows me to believe that I am somehow powerful to determine my destiny. It creates an illusion that I can prove my worth. I feel a craving, a compulsion to hold everything within my domain. Somewhere within me, though I can observe this madness, the control is there, right beneath the surface, calling out to me.
Release control. Submit to the messy. Don’t hold things so tightly. Breathe into the unknown. Rest. In surrendering your will, your need to claim, to own, to control, you can settle into the here and now. Release the unknown to God. You are safe.
Create a life of Compassion
The cycle of shame is the gasoline that fuels our perfectionistic tendencies. I set unrealistic goals for myself. I make unreasonable demands on myself. At some point, I fail. Though failure is a normal part of life, for the perfectionist, failure signals an immense implosion of shame. Shame whispers my utter worthlessness. It pulls me hopelessly into the undertow of condemnation. It compels me to yet once again, set the bar higher, to push harder in the drive to be freed from this shame, to feel for once – peace.
Just as peace can never coexist with shame, compassion can never coexist with condemnation. Compassion diffuses the weight of shame and allows us stop the pattern of self-condemnation. Perhaps this is why Romans 8:1 (NIV) details, Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Perhaps God knows our tendency to strive, to shame, to cling to condemnation as a bullying, yet familiar friend.
Compassion gives us a safe, kind, nurturing place to heal, to dwell, to come face to face with ourselves, and still be okay.
Compassion also means that we stop blaming others. We can never stop being victimized until we are ready to stop being the victim. We can never overcome oppression until we are ready to release our identity as the oppressed. Resist blame. Come face to face with yourself. Own your failure. It cannot destroy you. It doesn’t define you. You are on a journey. You are in the process of becoming.
Consume a Diet of Truth
John 8:32 (NIV) says, Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. When we recognize the harsh, shaming, perfectionistic voice that hides deep inside our hearts, we can speak the truth to that voice. We don’t have to succumb to its pressure. We don’t have to yield to its ways.
We can claim our worth, our value in the midst of our imperfections. We can admit the reality that everyone is broken —yes everyone. It is only God’s great and majestic love for us that sees beauty right in the middle of our humanity. Our beauty never lies in perfection. Our beauty lies in the all of the broken pieces that no longer hold us hostage, that no longer keep us hidden and disguised. Out of something broken God makes something beautiful. As God shines His light, His love, His glory through the jagged and prismed pieces of our lives, He creates the most amazing works of art.
If you have struggled with the word “perfect,” you are not alone.
Anna Quindlen, says, The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.
You don’t have to stay chained to your lists, your expectations, your goals. Exchange them for love, for freedom, for compassion, for truth.
Celebrate Imperfection. Release Control. Create a Life of Compassion. Consume a Diet of Truth.
This is what God desires for you. Discovering and becoming who God created you to be is the most awesome of journeys. Celebrate the journey. Relax into the process.
You won’t come up dry. You won’t be scraping the bottom of the barrel. You will experience fullness, abundance. You will know peace.