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Written By: Amber Lawton
“Give your self a break,” a friend of mine said to me over lunch. “It’s okay that you don’t know how to do it all, just start somewhere,” a relative said at dinner. “Don’t worry if you don’t finish today, you will have time tomorrow,” another friend said to me days later. Sound familiar?
Heading into the halfway mark of the year I began recounting conversations of disappointment. Over the past few weeks I found myself sharing how little I felt I accomplished in the span of 6 months. With great persistence friends and family members reassured me I was right where I should be, while the perfectionist in me tended to disagree. These conversations made me realize I am in an abusive relationship with myself.
I don’t say this to diminish the reality for those who experience physical, emotional, or mental abuse from another individual. I do, however, see that the perfectly straight white line of a bar that I set for myself is extremely high and way too straight for me. Actually, instead of one bar I have two perfectly lined bars set in front of me as uneven bars to a gymnast. Every day I jump to the lower bar already thinking about the high bar. I don’t relish in the victory of completing a full grasp, or finding strength to propel my body upward to stand. No, I am hanging onto the lower bar staring at the high bar as if I am still on the mat. Thinking from this place of ‘perfection’ means I am not good enough, and my accomplishments pale in comparison to that very high bar.
To be perfect is to be without mistake or flaw. Perfection is the state of being perfect. Yet, when I personalize perfect the definition expands to a vision. Perfect would mean: never having an awkward moment, speaking and writing with expressive freedom, being in my best health (spirit, mind, and body), publishing a magazine, and making a salary that covers my needs and wants. I would be married to my athletic, God fearing, world traveling husband (who, by the way, is at the top of his career). We would be bicoastal, raising our 2 children together. Although my career is demanding, I expect I would be afforded time with said children to read bed time stories, bake cookies, make lunches, learn languages, attend games etc. Of course perfect wouldn’t be complete without me sharing all of these experiences through my blog and a fabulous Pintrest account.
This idea of perfection though is void of reality, and could use just a little more Jesus. In my mind, the type of perfection needed to achieve this list is built on pride and says it’s only achievable if “I can” do/succeed. The elaborate list of what a perfect life looks like is accompanied by an even longer list of accomplishments I must achieve flawlessly.
My perfect is covered in condemnation, and wrapped in fear. This kind of perfection can lead to rejection or ridicule (from self), depression, a feeling of worthlessness, or a victim mentality. Add to this a myriad of items that fall under the umbrella of fear (i.e. anxiety, shyness, etc.) that attempt to leave me powerless. Even now, this kind of perfect would have me believe I am wasting my time sharing with you friend.
As a Christian woman I know God did not give me fear or self doubt, but the struggle is real. How do I get up, put my big girl panties on and face the day? When will saying ‘thy will be done’ become easier than putting on my version of Sasha Fierce and attempting to slay the day? Instead of chasing caviar dreams and Oprah-esque mansions I should be giving all of myself to Him. Why does this feel so difficult to do?
My issues with being perfect go deeper than the inability to surrender all to Him. The continual feelings of not being good enough reflect how my interpretation of ‘perfect’ does not match with God’s. I try to start the day by asking “what are we doing today God?” God’s perfect is bonded by love Colossians 3:14 says But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. His perfecting is a process. I am complete and spiritually made mature in Him (2 Cor 12:9). I can only attain the final goal through Him (Heb 10:1-10), and as I do so love increases and fear diminishes (1 John 4:17-18).
God’s perfect isn’t about being flawless, or without error. My perfection is not contingent of what I think, how I feel, or respond. Nor will it ever be based on the criticism and pressure I place on myself. God’s perfect is what allows me to live a life after Him, finding new beginnings, and immense joy. Being perfected in Him is what allows me to live whole.