Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Defeating Perfectionism

Do you ever feel like you have to be the perfect mother, the perfect Christian, the perfect teacher, the perfect wife, the perfect ________ [insert just about any title here]? I definitely do. For a long time I have struggled with perfectionism. With just about ANYTHING I've attempted in my life, I've wanted to do it perfectly-- or not at all. And of course, it was that type of behavior that got me accolades. An A+ in school was great. An A- got an "Why wasn't it an A+? Were you having an off day?" Argh.
When I was teaching, I wanted to be the perfect teacher. I HAD to see those "Exceeds Expectations" on my annual reviews. Those were scored a "Four". If I got a "Three" on anything, I was nearly devastated for many years. Of course, during the years I got all 4's, I was wishing there was such a thing as "Fives-- "Especially exceeds expectations" . Even perfect wasn't good enough for me.
The past year, I have been trying to be the perfect Christian. Somewhere in the Bible there is a verse about "Be ye perfect even as thy Father in Heaven is perfect..." That's a tall order for someone who is such a lowly sinner as myself. Even when I try my best to do something, many times I inevitably fail.
Then I look at the Apostle Paul, who wrote about "Christ lives in me" (Gal. 2:20) and "dying to self" and "killing the flesh". He wrote about "I have learned to be content whether I'm abased or abounded" and learning to live with everything or nothing. (Phil, 4:12).
And I think: THATS how I want to be! Now THERE'S an example of Christianity. What most of us Christians strive for : to be like how Paul wrote in his letters to the Galatians, the Colossians, and the Philippians. But, I almost always fail: its such a tall order, and day after day, as hard as I try and as much as I pray, I only make these teeny, tiny steps.
But you know what I found out?
Even Paul had trouble.
Even he said he did stuff he didn't want to do, as much as he didn't want to do. And that his only hope for help was Jesus.
You know how long Paul had been a Christian before he wrote those statements in his letters? A MINIMUM of 25 years. This man, who had seen Jesus face to face, had been a believer for at least 25 years before he was able to say "It is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me" and "I have learned to live with everything or with nothing." TWENTY FIVE YEARS. And this was a dude who had a face to face encounter with the Christ Jesus.
So I figure, if it took PAUL all those years to come up with this stuff....
do I have to get it all down in one year?
I don't think so.
The only perfect person that has ever lived, after all, was Jesus. The only one out of millions.
So I'm pretty sure its a baby-step thing, this "Becoming a Christian" thing. Or this "becoming anything" thing. If it took a great man like Paul decades, then I think I've got some wiggle-room here.
So if you're trying to be perfect at anything, give yourself some slack.
How about just trying to do one right thing at a time?
How about letting yourself off the hook just a little?
How about doing 1 thing better than you did yesterday? Or making 1 better choice?
For me, I've learned that's enough.
And God loves me anyway... The Bible says that although man may look at outward appearance, The LORD looks at the heart. God knows that my heart is in the right place.
Even if I don't have 100 Bible verses memorized.
Even if some days I forget to brush my teeth.
Even if some days I don't read my Bible.
Even if I am not like Paul.
Even if I am not perfect.

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