Confessions of A Recovering Perfectionist


I would like to shed some light on a misconception that I believe is widely believed among people today. It seems like an innocent enough and often said phrase, but I believe that some have taken this utterly too far in their personal lives. It is this:

Practice makes perfect. A great phrase to use to motivate little Jonny to actually go kick around the soccer ball if he wants to make it into the World Cup someday. But not one that we should apply to the entirety of our lives. Because does it, really?

I used to think so. I thought that there must be some level of commitment or effort that I wasn’t reaching that was preventing me from reaching the perfection that I perceived others to have, but somehow always eluded me. Maybe if I researched and read the article that advertised “1 Million Ways to Be More Organized and Successful” then I wouldn’t be forgetful, and my desk would never be messy. But this wasn’t so. I would try the newest strategy (or I wouldn’t out of feelings of being entirely too overwhelmed), but my reality never seemed to look like the results they advertised on paper.

I never really knew how bad it was until a few particular instances during my freshman year of college let me know that I was giving entirely too much credit to this idea of needing to become perfect. One particular instance involved me talking to my mom on the phone almost in tears because I was reading my email and thought I had missed a deadline. Before that phone call I had probably stared at the email and allowed my mind to race for about an hour, dwelling on all the probable consequences that would occur and what it meant about me as a person. It turned out after all of this that I wasn’t even looking at the right deadline, and I was in the clear.

In a way, aren’t we doing the same thing, looking a wrong (and unattainable) goal in the face when we strive to reach perfection in every area of our lives? I believe there is a much better, alternative way to look at how we can go about bettering ourselves. It is this:

Practice makes progress.

Because progress is a much more attainable thing, available to anyone who is willing to work hard, even when it means taking baby steps toward a goal. We are always progressing in one direction or another in the areas of our lives. And the focus of this strategy echoes the words of the oft-quoted poem by William Hickson, “If at first you don’t succeed, try again.”

However, there is another element to letting go of this toxic temptation that is the pursuit of perfectionism, and it lies in what you believe about who you are. Perfectionism says, “You’re so far from where you should be, you are less than, behind, unworthy.” But while we are human and therefore by definition imperfect, there is Another Who has something else to say about Who you are in Him.

“[You] are fearfully and wonderfully made.”

“You are beautiful, my beloved, and I see no fault in you.”

“I have cleansed you whiter than snow.”

“I rejoice over you with singing.”

“I have covered you with garments of salvation and arrayed you in a robe of righteousness.”

Now these are what I would consider the most motivational phrases of all time, and they are written to me by the One Who is the expert on perfect! When I believe the things written above, I have the courage to make all the progress in the world!!

So if you too are a recovering perfectionist, I would encourage you to do two things:

1. Replace your faulty strategies with “Practice makes progress”, and

2. Daily remind yourself who the Author of perfection says you are (straight from the Bible).

Let’s make some progress together ☺

{If you’re not sure whether you know the One I referred to above, or whether you have been washed whiter than snow, watch this video ( https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=K48-Li7lIfA ) to gain some clarity.}

Scripture references: Ps. 139:14; Song of Sol. 4:7; Ps. 51:7; Zeph. 3:17; Is. 61:10

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God Is Not A Genie

 

Version 2

Many of you have been there. You’re in a store or some other such public place, and you hear it. The screaming of “Why, Mommy, why???” Or “But I want iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit” {insert hysterical sobs here}. The reason for this hullabaloo seems to be something earth-shattering, like a candy bar or a $2 toy. But to the child that has subsequently melted onto the floor after seeing it, it is the holy grail of prepubescent bliss.

Many times, without realizing it, we are that kid screaming on the floor with fluids coming out of all orifices (maybe even literally). Because we wanted something, prayed for something, worked hard and waited for it…. And just like that parent in the Target checkout, God turned to us calmly and said, “NO.”

Why on earth would a loving God tell His children no?? This is a question that is often raised up and debated, or pondered quietly within a discouraged heart. Fortunately, we can know that the answer is NOT because He is unloving or evil. In fact, the Bible reassures us that God is indeed a Good Good Father.

“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:9-11‬ ‭NLT‬

So the question is again raised: What if I am asking, but God isn’t giving me what I’m asking for? I think the answer lies within the very fact that God is such a good Father. Because what if that “good gift” we’re asking for is actually a snake, and we can’t see it? A good God Who sees things for what they really are is certainly no less good for withholding such a thing from us. Another possibility is that the timing has not yet come for us to receive such a gift. God has always been in the business of setting the stage perfectly before the climax of a story. Sometimes this includes setting the stage of our heart so that we will truly appreciate the gift when it comes. Think how much more precious the sight of the Promised Land must have been to the Israelites after they had spent all that time wandering and waiting for it.

What then do we do in the meantime, in the waiting? I think the answer lies within Psalm 37:4, which tell us: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of Your heart.” But rather than seeing this as a magical formula to get what we want, we should focus on the first part of the verse. Because when we are delighting ourselves in Him, He is constantly molding our desires to match the ones He has for us anyway. In this approach, we solve both problems, because He causes us to desire so much more than the $2 candy bar that looks so good when it’s staring us in the face, and prepares us for the feast He is preparing for us if we just have the patience to wait and to delight in the fact that He offers us Himself, in the meantime and in the end. Because shouldn’t our true desire be to look beyond the worldly things staring us in the face and instead reach up to climb into the arms that offer to hold us? I’d rather climb into the arms of a good Father who lovingly tells me “no” than those of a genie who grants my every petty wish anyway.

Will you join me?

The Magic of Mistakes

Weights

Imagine this: You’re lying on your back and a huge weight is lowered down on you. You grip it with your hands and push upward with all your might, but nothing happens. You think, “I have made the world’s biggest mistake. Why did I allow myself to get into this situation?” But then you push harder, the weight is lifted, and suddenly you realize, “Hmm. I think I’ve just gotten stronger.” After a minute you wonder maybe if you did it once, you can do it again. And you do.

The beginning of this scenario describes how we often feel when we dare to try something new and are disappointed because our efforts don’t succeed. The force of failure can become a load that weighs down and depresses us. We think we got ourselves into this mess and that there is no possible way to classify this as anything but a terrible mistake.

But is it really?

Because when we choose to push back against the weight of disappointment and possibly even try again, we become stronger. And for those who love God, we can be encouraged in knowing that He is turning our bad experiences into good in the way that He is using them to shape us more fully into the person He intends us to be.

Imagine what would have happened if people like Walt Disney had given into the disappointment that comes when your efforts don’t succeed. The world would miss out on experiencing one of the greatest and most successful industries to grace the planet. In the same way, you have something that the world needs to experience, never mind the fear that may be holding you back.

I have found that once you’ve failed at something and survived, the fear of trying something new becomes a little lesser. Or at least it does if you choose to look at the situation with the lenses of optimism that color the experience as a lesson. And then you can choose to go in another direction and try something else… that just may work.

There are also times that things don’t work because the timing is just not right or because of circumstances outside of our control. It is important in these situations to evaluate whether we did what we know is right and what we were supposed to do. And if the glitch lies somewhere beyond our own actions, maybe we’re meant to try again. And just maybe the second… or third… or four hundredth time will be the charm. Thomas Edison said of his long journey toward inventing the light bulb: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Therein lies the magic in our “mistakes”. The magic is not in the disappointment, but in the lessons we learn through it, and the person it shapes us into. So will you allow yourself to be paralyzed the next time something doesn’t work out the way you wanted? Or will you push back and allow God to strengthen you into someone who is even more equipped for the next obstacle that may come your way?

The only way to find out is to empty your hands of the excuse notes of yesterday, trusting in the One who turns even the bruises into badges of experience. He is the One who gives the strength to push back when you need it. And if you’re willing to try, you’re gonna need it. 😉

{Photo credits: Measuring the weight, by Librarianguish; According to the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license. View original media here. Disclaimer: I have not contributed to the creation of this photo nor have I altered it in any way.}

While I’m Waiting

IMG_0826

I’m sitting in the great room in my family’s house on a peaceful, quiet morning. It’s three days before Christmas, and yet there’s still no snow outside. Across the room from me stands the most beautiful Christmas tree. It’s not lit, and as I ponder that, a line from a favorite movie comes to mind: “The little lights are not twinkling, Clark.” But what makes it beautiful is not the lights, or even its height (we go for the tallllll trees 😉 ), but the dozens and dozens of Christmas ornaments that bedeck the festive evergreen. See, each one of the ornaments that we bestow upon our Christmas tree represents a memory: Baby’s first Christmas, a koala playing soccer as we used to, an electric guitar, a family vacation picture enclosed in a frame. And as these are all so beautiful in themselves, their worth will only be enhanced when the lights come on.

But it’s not time yet.

This is a lot what it’s like in life to be waiting. We may be waiting for a particular season in life to end or for a new one to begin, for a source of pain to cease or for a sense of joy to return. But in the quiet moments when the lights aren’t on, can we choose to see the beauty in the moments we’ve already been given? The memories that have already been put on the tree? What about the moment we’re in?

The Bible says that “for everything there is a season” (Ecc. 3), and that we should always rejoice, giving thanks to God the Father Who does all things. And we who trust in Him can do so because we know that He is working out all things for our good (Rom. 8:28) and making everything beautiful in its time (Ecc. 3:11). And just as a diamond is made through time and pressure, God’s way of making things beautiful often occurs through intense, character-shaping circumstances, and takes longer than we would prefer. But this is what gives the beautiful things even more value, because it is the rare and the precious things that require effort that are the ones worth waiting for.

Eventually, the lights will come on. And more moments will be added to the tree. But this will all happen at the right time.

The question is: Are we willing to wait through the time and the pressure to get the diamond? And what will we do in the meantime? Because we can choose to wait miserably, focusing on the lightless tint of the moment… OR we can instead choose to appreciate the beauty right in front of us, trusting that God has even more than we can imagine for us if we are willing to wait.

My Own Worst Enemy

  We’ve all had that friend. They are the living definition of a “frenemy”. This friend is cunning. One day telling you you are great and powerful and can do anything, the next reminding you of your imperfect past and formidable future. Their emotions go up and down like a rollercoaster flown off the track, and they take you with them.

I have a friend like that.

Oh wait, it’s me.

You see, we all can be our own best friend or our own worst enemy at any given time. The good thing is, we can choose which we want to be. It all starts with our thought life.

Philippians 4:8 tells us to think about, “whatever is true…right…pure…lovely…admirable.”

I think if we are all honest with ourselves, a good majority of thoughts that enter and exit our heads do not fit these requirements. They are often the exact opposite. And the results of a mind filled with untrue and unlovely statements are often disastrous actions and behaviors.

The bad news is that our thought life is not something we can fix overnight, or by ourselves.

The good news is that in Jesus there is a way we can completely revamp the way we think.

Paul reminds us of the power the Holy Spirit has to transform us from the inside out, for we have “divine power to remove strongholds” (2 Cor. 10:4).

Romans 12:2 tells us to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind”.

It is Jesus who transforms us, and it is in His Word that we find the true and lovely and admirable to fill our minds with. Because the first step is to “take captive every thought that sets itself up against the knowledge of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5), but it cannot stop there, or we will just be emptying our minds to be filled again by deceptive philosophy.

We must put in the time to take in words like these: 

“For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7).

“For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs” ‭‭(Zeph. ‭3:17‬).

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).

Please join me today in choosing to take control of our thoughts. It’s only then that we’ll be able to love God with our whole heart, soul, and mind. Do not let the true Enemy be the one calling the shots on your life.

It’s Up to You: The Art of Intentionality 

  “God gives every bird its food, but He does not throw it into the nest.” J.G. Holland

It’s the start of a new day. Yawning, you open your eyes… And see yourself fully dressed, shoes on, and with coffee in hand. But you never even got out of bed. Strange.

Right?

Most people would find the above scenario utterly ridiculous. You have to get out of bed to make the coffee. Go to the closet to get the shoes. And then put them on.

Yet so many people live this way about the big things in life, acting as though they’ll achieve that goal or reach their dream without putting in the effort. Much of this is due to a mindset instilled in many people today that says: “I deserve to be happy and have what I want, so therefore it will happen.”

WRONG.

I have found that the paths to great success are often marked by the small steps.

Get out of bed to get the coffee.

Go to the interview to get the job.

Skip the cake to get healthy.

Talk to strangers to make friends.

Work hard to get the raise.

Those that want something but refuse to take the small steps to get it have no room to complain when it doesn’t happen. A wise man named Jesus once taught that it is those who are faithful in the little things who get to experience the big things (Matthew 25).

Another wise man of today said the following: “Everybody ends up somewhere in life. A few people end up somewhere on purpose.” (Andy Stanley, Visioneering)

Intentionality is a key component of success. Your everyday decisions ultimately reflect your priorities.

So whether you are someone who has bought into the lie of magical success or not, we would all do well to ask ourselves if our everyday, seemingly small decisions are taking us down the path towards successfully reaching our goals.

Making the choice to evaluate and possibly re-order your days could literally change the course of your life.

One small step at a time.

Buried Treasure: A Blog Post on Life Seasons 

Picture Credit to: =-.0= . Use permitted according to Creative Commons Attribution license. Title: Shovel! View Original Here. Disclaimer: I have not edited this image in any way.

Dig. Dig. Dig dig. Dig.

I fill my shovel with another scoop of dirt and lift it up, tossing it to the side. Each shovelful brings me closer to what I’m looking for, something that I know is there, yet is still somewhere beneath the surface. It’s elusive, evading.

And totally worth digging for.

The treasure I (and others) seek is sometimes referred to as the “silver lining”. It’s the hope that no matter how bleak things may seem, there is some good, some purpose for the striving.

God is the giver of this hope.

Ecclesiastes chapter three acknowledges all the ups-and-downs that life has to offer, saying: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die…to plant… to uproot… to tear down… to build… to weep… to laugh…to tear… to mend…” the list goes on and on. Yet for every season described on this list, there is a person (and many others!) who is experiencing that particular time. Both the good and the bad are equally present in this summary of these situations that make up life. And both are equally necessary in order to make us all into the individuals we were purposed to be.

God lets us in on a secret about the purpose of the storms of our lives in verse 11 of this chapter.

“He [God] has made everything beautiful in its time… yet men cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

Herein lies the hope that we all should cling to when going through the seasons that are less than desirable, the ones that hurt us like stabs to the heart and shake us to the core, and the ones that leave us feeling not much of anything.

God is working out a plan far bigger and greater than we can see. And His plans are good. For “in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (not sure if you’re included in this statement? Check out this video for more information).

Mary the mother of Jesus gives us a great example of how to respond when things happen that we don’t understand. There is something that Mary is said multiple times to have done when something happened that she didn’t understand. It is said that Mary “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2: 19, 15). And these were not all happy things either! One instance included losing Jesus and finding Him at the temple, unrepentant. Yet Mary’s response was always to take the unfathomable and view it as a treasure to be pondered.

It has taken many years for me to start learning how to do this. Yet I have learned to treasure the dark times, because I have seen that it is often these times God uses to shape me more fully into the person that He created me to be.

So, dear friend, whatever time, whatever season you may be going through right now, know that if you commit to following the Master Storyteller, He will weave your experiences together into a story more beautiful than you can fathom. Hold onto this hope, dig for the treasure, and be expectant that He is using even the now to bring you closer to the promise buried in the ground.

Picture Credit to: =-.0= . Use permitted according to Creative Commons Attribution license. Title: Shovel! View Original Here. Disclaimer: I have not edited this image in any way.