Intentional Mothering

Why Pursuing Perfection Makes Me Less Faithful.

October 24, 2016

For many years I have struggled with a pursuit of perfectionism.

It is a drive I have that pushes me forward in many ways, though this desire for perfectionism doesn’t stretch to all areas of my life. I don’t, for example, want a perfect house. {Which, those who know me, would nod in agreement because my house is never, ever in a perfectly ordered way.} Neither do I desire to have perfect cooking skills or perfect sewing skills. When I craft, it’s in a very wing-it sort of way.

Yet, despite that, I would call myself a perfectionist {and that’s not in a positive way}. You see, the kind of perfectionism I seek is character perfection. I demand a lot of myself. I demand very high standards of my character and my behaviour. I demand excellence.

Now, before I get all theologised — I totally and completely get that I am not, nor will ever be, on this earth, perfected. I believe with all my mind that I am saved by faith and by grace alone.

It is God who directs people to Him.

It is God who shows them their dark state.

It is God who helps them repent.

It is God who saves.

It is God who begins the good work in a saint and who will complete it into perfection.

“There is none that is good.” ~ Psalm 53:1

I am not good. I know this very, very well.

But my heart? My heart likes to lead me into all kinds of deception {Jeremiah 17:9}.

My heart fools me into thinking that I can actually attain perfection, in and of myself, with my very own hard-working hands. It purrs¬†with self-satisfaction when I feel like I have achieved a high standard I have placed upon myself … And it churns with false guilt and self-hatred when I fail — which is everyday.

the-wedding-of

 

It is exhausting to be someone who seeks perfection in themselves, all by themselves. The standards are high, and they are never lived up to. Jerry Bridges, in his book Transforming Grace, called this the “performance treadmill”. We can never get off because we’re always running to reach the standards we set ourselves. And we kill ourselves in the process.

Thankfully, God has slowly been working in me. My brain and my heart are connecting on this issue, and I am being transformed by His grace.

Recently, I have noticed however, a new aspect in my pursuit of perfectionism that I didn’t see in me before. I have noticed inconsistency in my actions. I’ve seen how I drop something completely if I don’t do it perfectly. My heart has been opened to the reality that, when I pursue perfectionism in the things that I desire to be perfect in, I am less faithful in them.

Take our preschool-at-home, for example. I’ve had so many plans, so many ideas. I’ve made routines and lists {perfectionists love lists and boxes to tick!}. I’ve tried to implement things into our days. But then —

  • the kids won’t have a bar of it
  • it’s raining
  • there are too many errands to run
  • it’s too hard
  • I’m tired
  • the house is a mess
  • etc etc.

Something, or a few things, will get in the way of my great plans and, because I’m not meeting those standards of mine, I just stop. I don’t continue. I feel like I’m a failure. It’s too hard. I can’t do this perfectly, so I won’t do it at all.

Losing weight. Being consistent with exercise. Daily time with God. Homekeeping routines. Building a blog. I could go on about all the things that I have continued to drop and start again because of this pursuit of perfectionism. There are many.

But God is showing something to me. Not only is the Good News {that I can’t be perfect and I need Jesus to be perfect for me} getting more rooted and becoming more life-giving in me, I’m being stunned by these simple words that keep cropping up in my life:

It’s not about being perfect. It’s about being faithful.

Being faithful: that’s all God wants of me. He wants me to listen to Him, obey Him, and be faithful.

Being me? He just wants me to be faithful with the person He made me to be.

Being a wife? He just wants me to faithfully love and care for my husband.

Being a mother? He just wants me to faithfully love and raise up and admonish the children.

Being a loving neighbour? He just wants me to faithfully love those He puts in my path.

In all these things, He wants me to faithfully obey Him according to His Word. He knows I’m never going to live up to it all. He knows – and sees – how I muck up everyday.

I eat too much chocolate – again.

I snap at the kids – again.

I put myself before my husband – again.

I ignore a chance to witness to Christ because I’m scared – again.

Again and again my pursuit of perfectionism hits the dust.

“When people insist of perfection or nothing, they get nothing.” ~ Edith Schaeffer

If I continue in this, I will get nothing.

But instead of nothing, I can turn my eyes upon Jesus and receive everything. I can accept that He’s done it all for me. The light of the Cross falls on me. I don’t deserve it. But He covers me in His grace.

And because of that grace, and of that mercy, I can sit comfortably in being imperfect. I can pursue consistency. I can be a faithful person in the tasks God gives me to do. 

Can you relate to this at all? Please share.

  1. I struggle with the same issues. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. I can say I definitely agree that God is not looking for perfection with us. He is already familiar with all our ways and knows we may make mistakes. He is concerned with our faithfulness to Him!

    God bless,
    Patty

    1. I love that – familiar with all our ways. Sometimes I’m just struck how much He knows me and loves me, just as I am. That is a thing of wonder.

  2. I definitely know how discouraging it can be to expect so much from myself and to fail. If only we could master the art of expecting so much from God instead and humbling ourselves under His mighty hand that He may exalt us in due time. Casting all our cares on Him, for He cares for us.
    I do believe that the perfectionism that we get trapped in is attached to our pride and is built up into a stronghold (read “prison”) by spirits of legalism, spirits of lying/error, spirits of fear and bondage. (Rom. 8:15; 1 John 4:6)
    But God does not want us to be trapped in a prison. Any prison we are in as Christians has the door unlocked. We can walk free because of Christ! In the name of Jesus we have the victory!

    1. I love that – expecting so much from God instead. That is filled with hope, because it is God-centred. And yes, pride is a big thing with perfectionism.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge