On Being A Strong-Willed Perfectionist And Following God

On Being A Strong-Willed Perfectionist And Following God -christyfitzwater.com

It was the fall of 1983, when computers were still a twinkle in their mother’s eye. I was a freshman sitting in typing class, and it was my first experience putting my fingers on what we now call a keyboard. Every day we did drills: left fourth finger up to the W. Right fourth finger up to the O. Right thumb on the space bar.

I could not get the hang of it.

My brain could not get my fingers where they needed to go, and every day the drills got a little faster and my skill level dropped farther behind.

One day I was sitting at a typewriter, in the middle of the room, and after a timed drill I lost it. In total frustration, I ripped the paper out of the typewriter, crumpled it up, threw it on the floor, yelled, “I can’t do this,” and burst into tears. The class quieted and all eyes turned my direction. My shining moment. The worst part about that story? The next day I had to go back to typing class.

A few days ago, I was sharing this story with my own freshmen at school, except I finished by telling them how I finally got the hang of typing and then really got the hang of typing. My name went on the front bulletin board for the fastest, most accurate time. Then one day a student said, “You should race the teacher.” The teacher sat down at the typewriter next to me, and we did a timed drill together, with the whole class watching.

I won.

“So be encouraged,” I told my freshmen. “If you just keep trying to get these verb drills we’re working on, I believe you’ll get the hang of it.”

This was an inspiring story, until the Holy Spirit turned it on me–a spotlight on my own soul–because I had been losing it on the inside. “I’m never going to be a good Christian!” I yelled during my quiet time and burst into tears.

This is a thing, The Lord said to me. This perfectionist thing where if you can’t get the hang of something RIGHT NOW you have a nervous breakdown and give up ALL HOPE and yell, WHY EVEN KEEP TRYING, PLEASE TAKE ME TO HEAVEN, JESUS.

Well, yes. Yes I do.

Oh man.

I think back to when I took voice lessons in college. As a musician, I knew well what a beautiful voice sounded like, and after 20 minutes of my first lesson I did not sound like that. So I cried and shut down emotionally for the rest of the quarter. My professor was at a loss for how to get me to keep trying. (Wait, how old are you again?)

So this blog post is only for the strong-willed, I-need-to-do-this-myself-and-perfectly souls. You even-keeled, patient people can hop over and read some other blogger for today. Only someone like me is going to get this feeling. It comes with crossing the arms in a hmmmph and a frowny face. It’s not a bad trait always, this fierce determination to conquer a challenge, but growing the character God defines for me in the Bible is going to take longer than 20 minutes. (That makes me rage inside, and again, you’re only going to understand that if you have a personality like mine. If I read in the Bible that I should be kind, then it makes me C-R-A-Z-Y if I’m not immediately able to pull that off and have to work on it for, say, longer than a day.)

So maybe crazy is the theme.

Well, I come back to this: God made me. He gets me. I think he can work with this inner child, even when I’m having a legitimate, full-blown tantrum over my inability to do perfectly everything he wants me to do starting yesterday.

I think my point here is that I’ve been frustrated and have felt defeated over not being all the things, but look how kind God was to give me understanding of my own nature and to help me understand ME and how I’m relating to him. He turned the encouragement I was giving my students toward my own soul and has encouraged me.

The writer of Hebrews tells us, “So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper.’” (Hebrews 13:6a NIV) I say that to you with confidence today, too. If we feel a little crazy on the inside, the Lord will help us.

Even if you don’t have a personality like mine, can I just tell you that God wants to encourage you? That is what he does for his children. Whatever your “deal” is that you’re struggling with, go ahead and let him have the full force of it. He’ll help you. And seriously, if he is willing to work with my inner freshman, surely he is more than willing to work with you.


  1. Claudia Chapman says:

    Thank you one more time for pointing out a common mortal struggle, and pointing us back to the ONLY ONE who can help us! Love you Christy?

  2. Wow. We must be soul sisters because you described me perfectly. I can’t tell you of the countless shut downs and fits because I can’t get it right after how many decades of walking with Jesus? I’ll leave it at many.
    I literally verbalized in bible study last week that “I’m not very good at being a Christian, I don’t feel like I get it right very often,” and poof- here is your blog about it. God’s timing is so perfect.
    Thank you for sharing on this and one day we will both truly be perfect- Praise God!

    1. It actually encourages me to hear you say that, because sometimes I feel like I’m the only one who struggles so much internally. And yes -someday perfect! (I think I wrote a book about that, but I seem to have to keep relearning the same message.)

  3. And hallelujah he is willing to work even with the inner middle-schooler of a middle-ager – !!
    God is GOOD. We don’t deserve it by any means, and that just makes His goodness all the more good.
    (from a chomping-at-the-bit, torpedo-style learner over here)

  4. Thank you for sharing that today! So many days I feel like I’ve failed to live up to God’s standards. I needed to hear just what you shared.

  5. I love you and your personality! Thanks for letting God use you and mold you…..
    With Love,
    a friend with a different personality with struggles of her own 😉

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