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Posts Tagged ‘Perfectionism’

I was so mad.  Correction.  I was livid.  I couldn’t believe the person did what they did, and I was righteous all over the place in my anger.  Justified!  Humph.  But God had something to say.

I am not a person who likes confrontation, so I did not go to the person directly.  (Mistake number one.)

I thought I was doing a good thing by not telling others… exactly.  I just bent my husband’s ear over it – detail by detail.  (Mistake number two.)

I was angry about it for a looooong time.  Some might call it a grudge.  (Mistake number three.)

Then, I did the first right thing.  I took my anger to the Lord in prayer.

I told God what the person did, how selfish they were being, how it hurt me, how right I was and how unbelievably, unmistakably, entirely wrong this person was.  I went on and on.  And on some more.

God listened for a long time.  Then when it seemed that I had sputtered out, He asked me a question, clearly, in my mind.

“How about if I measure you with the same stick that you are using to measure that person?”

“Um, the same measuring stick, God?”

“The same one, Wendi.”

Well.  That shut me up.  No, I would not like that at all.  I much prefer the tape measure Mary Poppins uses to measure herself.  (You know, “practically perfect in every way.”)

Apparently, God does not want us to be concerned with who is right and who is wrong – because we’re all wrong, at one time or another.  He wants us to leave the judging to Him.

I would rather be measured by God’s measuring stick – after I’ve gone through the Jesus car wash.

Then, I won’t be “practically perfect”, but completely perfected.

And forgiven.

“For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  Matt. 7:2 NIV

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My kids think I am way over the edge when it comes to food.  Truth be told, the rest of my family might agree with them.  If I had my way, my daughters would eat so well, they would think peaches were candy.  Dream on. 

On occasion, we do pop into a fast food joint for a bite to eat.  (Blech.)  Maybe it’s because they are so deprived, or maybe it’s just to get under my skin, but my girls do their best to avoid any part of the meal with nutritive value, preferring instead to make a meal of fries.  (Yeah, I know.  We have control issues.)

I have tried my best to explain to them why this isn’t a good idea.  I tell them that fries are the “filler” in the meal, not the main event.  If they just ate the fries, it would be like receiving a gift in the mail and paying more attention to the Styrofoam peanuts in the box than the actual gift.

This is understandable.  After all, they are only human.  I do it, too.  Instead of feeding my mind, body and spirit with good things, I feed on “fillers.” 

I eat Styrofoam peanuts.

Just like the fillers in our lives, packing peanuts appear to be a good thing.  They are shiny, light and colorful, whereas real peanuts have dirty shells, are bland in color and are even sort of… funny looking. 

But consider the difference in their value.  The man-made ones are not biodegradable, are harmful to the environment, stick to everything, and fly all over the place, refusing to be contained.  The God-made ones are tasty, compostable, nutritious, provide oxygen while in plant form, and can be turned into peanut butter and derivatives thereof (think Reese’s…?).

I have so many Styrofoam peanuts in my life that I could be shipped overseas in them.  I have gone after shiny, colorful things only to have them disappoint.  I have fed on things like control, perfectionism, and pride, and ended up with a belly ache.  I have filled up on endless responsibilities, only to have them eat me.  I have been eating all the wrong things to satisfy my God-sized appetite. 

But I am learning!  Giving up those fake-o peanuts really is sweet surrender. 

Now, I am tasting the Bread of Life…

 and it is délicieux

Styrofoam peanuts

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My sister and I have a running gag about my fake Ph.D.  (She is a real psychologist with a real Ph.D.)  We use any excuse to laugh together, so with my fake doctorate, I diagnose her with fake disorders.  I’ve made up some doozies.  What follows is one that I discovered in me.

Per-for-mance-itis  (per-fôr-mans-i’-tis), n.   Spiritual disorder whereby the afflicted puts approval of any person or entity ahead of the approval of God.  Symptoms include excessive concern about the thoughts of others, changing one’s behavior to receive approval, going against the will of God to receive approval, searching anywhere and everywhere for approval.  Approval addiction.  (See also Perfectionism, Over-achieving and Applause-seeking)

I am recovering, but I have struggled with approval addiction for as long as I can remember.  I felt that unless I was perfect, got the best grades, won first place in the competition, sang the best, or was liked by everyone, I was not…enough .

If only I knew then …

Applause fades.  Audiences go home.  Teachers retire.  Companies downsize.  Careers end.  Friends change.  Grandparents and parents die.  Because people are people (and therefore, broken) they will let us down, sooner or later. 

Hear me well.  There is not enough chocolate in this world to satisfy our deepest desires.   The needs of our hearts, the longings of our souls can be filled only by the One who put them there in the first place.  He has the ability and the desire to fill all the empty places inside of us.

I figure, when I get to heaven, God is not going to say, “Wendi, you were such a good rule-follower.  Hey, those were some stellar grades you got in school.  And my, what a clean house you kept!  Enter into thy master’s joy!”  No, no, no and no.

Here’s what I want to hear: “Well done, good and faithful servant.  You tried your hardest to be like my Son.  He’ll bring you the rest of the way.  Enter into thy master’s joy!” 

Oh, yeah.  That’s what I’m going for.

No performance, no perfect house, no perfect mothering, no good deeds, no accolades, trophies, or awards will make God love me any more than He already does. 

And He can’t do anything more to prove it to me than He already has. 

I am enough – and more – just because He said so.

Oklahoma City

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My sister laughed at me.  I shared my first blog entry with her before posting it, and peppered her with all kinds of questions.  (Do you think it’s too_______?  Is it ________ enough?  Do you think anyone will read it?  Or care?  Blah, blah, blah…)

She said, “Wendi, the first thing you said is ‘I am not perfect,’ then you worry about it not being perfect!”

Oh, yeah.  I didn’t tell you.  I am a recovering perfectionist.  I used to wear the title with a capital P.  How proud I was to tell everyone that I was (am?) a perfectionist.  This may be hard to believe, but no one was impressed.  Imagine.  I wanted people to think that I was somehow “better” for being one.  Instead, they looked at me like I just told them I had gas.  There was sort of an amused grin, an uncomfortable chuckle, then, ever so slowly, they would back away.

I told you that I am mess.

There was a time that I was such a mess that I didn’t even know that I was a mess.  But as I have paid more attention to the One who is to be our life’s pattern, the more I see disparity – between who He is and what I am.

My seventh grade math teacher, Mr. Brown, gave me an interesting illustration.  (This was a long time ago, when teachers could mention Jesus without getting in trouble.)  Mr. Brown walked the aisles, and passed out our corrected tests one at a time.  Upon seeing a B- in red at the top of my paper, I heaved a big sigh and slouched in my desk.  As he walked by, Mr. Brown said, “Just remember, Miss Washington, there was only one person who was perfect, and they killed Him.”

So I am gradually recovering from this malady, the one where I would even think that I could ever come close to perfection.   I still would prefer that my house be perfectly clean – no dog hair, no pink mold in the toilet, no newspapers by the leather chair, no children’s shoes to trip over.  But in my healthier moments, I remember that those are signs that I have a sweet family living with me (except for the mold in the toilet).  I’d much rather have my family here than to be alone in a perfectly clean house.

I will still probably scrutinize every blog post and worry that you won’t find it… you know… perfect.  But I will also do some deep breathing exercises before I hit “send” and remember that only one person ever was, or will ever be, perfect.  

What a relief.

 some of our happy mess

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