When the Perfectionist Tries To Know God
For a few years now, I’ve been teaching a class at church called PLACE, which helps people discover how God has shaped them to be of service in the body of Christ.
Last night we started a new, four-week class, and I taught the first session on personality. While everyone took a personality inventory I flipped through the workbook, which I have done on many occasions. This time I discovered a sentence I hadn’t taken note of before.
In describing the “beaver” personality (read The Two Sides of Love, by Smalley and Trent, to learn about the animal names they’ve ascribed to the four personalities), I saw this general description:
Impressions of self can dig and bury deeply and work actively in their imaginations, leading to depression –as when promises they break or errors they make may distress them for a long time or even a lifetime!
That is me -the self-torturous one.
Every mistake I’ve ever made plays like a movie scene in my mind all the time.
Really? Distressed for a lifetime? my husband said.
Yes! Distressed for a lifetime, I said.
Can you see it in my blog –those of you who’ve stuck with me for a long time -my constant struggle to know what to do with my failings?
While I was having this conversation about personality with my husband, I opened the fridge and moved a cube of butter from one shelf to another. I turned around to see my husband smirking.
The butter was in the wrong place, I said.
He just shook his head.
Beavers strive relentlessly for perfection, and we bludgeon ourselves if we fall at all short.
So what’s a beaver to do when he or she opens the Bible?
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23 NIV)
The thought of falling short makes a beaver squirm with discomfort, maybe more discomfort than most feel when they read the same words.
But then there are the promises about future perfection:
For he chose us in [Christ] before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. (Ephesians 1:4 NIV)
Blameless. That means not one single flaw.
I set out every day to achieve that blameless state for which God chose me. Never a lie. Never an unkind word. Never a lacking of self-control.
And you know how that turns out.
Constant distress is where I find myself. Those of you who have different personalities will not understand what it’s like inside us perfectionist types –the way we flog our souls over every sin and not just in the moment but pulling them up again day after day, to punish ourselves repeatedly.
I feel like everyone around me sees my imperfection as well –like the day I ran six errands and later discovered a huge piece of spinach stuck in my front teeth. Can you see my failures? Can you see my failures? Always there is this stomach-churning worry inside of me that you know I’m a horrible person.
This is a mental sickness –a cancerous place in the way I view myself and you and God.
Today I realize there is this part of my personality that desperately needs Jesus. Needs healing and truth and change.
I need grace on the inside.
And I need grace on the outside –people who will keep speaking forgiveness and love to me. Thank God for the husband and the kids and the moms and the aunts and the friends who keep saying grace to you.
Perfect is coming, but it’s not here yet. In the meantime we can know love and peace –the Bible says so.
I offer this prayer for me and for every distressed perfectionist out there:
Jesus, quiet our troubled thoughts. Help us rely on your love and live in your forgiveness. Teach us how to leave our sin in the past and move forward. I’m sure we cannot do this without your powerful help and mercy. Make our personalities healthy so we can bring glory to your name.
My question for you today –what corner of your personality needs the restoring touch of Jesus?
OMGosh Christy….You and I are cut from the same cloth. I’ve struggled with this same mindset. I kept wondering why. I had a wonderful childhood with the best parents in the world. People with wonderful childhoods shouldn’t struggle with self confidence, right? After much thought, I realize that I am a perfectionist. If I am perfect, I won’t disappoint anybody ( and when my parents were alive, I especially didn’t want to disappoint them). This results in a life of fear. Fear causes me to avoid risks. Avoiding risk might be thought of as prudent and wise, but that is subject to the definition used for “risk”. I have long (subconsciously) defined risk as anything that might result in making a mistake…or failure. Like taking that great opportunity instead of keeping the job I hate OR writing something because nobody would like it OR going back to school to study for my dream career because I may not be able to excel AND keep up with my job and church and home.
So I’m working on it. I am not a freak. People, even some close to me, don’t even realize that I struggle with this. It’s risky to let them know! Lol Of course, God knows and he is helping me through it. I live each day in His grace.
I’m also a friend in NY. And, to answer your question, it IS beautiful here in central NY. The leaves are just about peak and we’ve had lovely warm days and cool nights.
I totally understand you. I told my husband I feel like I’m always holding my breath, living in fear of when I’ll mess up again. I feel God is trying to teaching me how to live a better way, but I have so far to go. It certainly turns into disboedience, though, if we refuse to follow God’s leading because we might mess up. He asks us to serve him and be of value in his kingdom long before we’re ever good enough to do it. A blessing on you -may we know freedom from this debilitating way of thinking!!!
P.S. I raked leaves yesterday, and they smelled so good! I resisted the urge to jump in like a little kid. Enjoy your fall on the east coast -so nice to hear from you!!
Yes Lord, make our personalities healthy! Great prayer. One of my favorite books is titled, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero. It deals with all these areas of our natural foibles that keep us from knowing God’s grace.
Thanks for the lovely encouragement.
I should read that!
Christy, you are a great person. I can relate to you. I wish we lived closer!
Your friend in New York.
Dear New York friend -how are the colors out there this beautiful month of October? Let’s meet in Nebraska for coffee! 🙂
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