Lately I’ve been thinking about how far I’ve come in my battle against perfectionism.
In years past I’d isolate myself not wanting to mingle with people for fear of messing up in front of them. I also fretted for days at a time over petty mistakes or bad judgment calls I’d made feeling I’d completely ruined my life. Depression often moved in as I mourned over my failure to perform perfectly.
I came out of my childhood believing people would accept nothing but perfection from me. A memorable time I was proved wrong was when I worked in an insurance office at age 19.
My supervisor asked me to help with the mail since our regular mail person was on vacation. As I got the machine ready, I accidentally set the meter for 60 cents instead of 6. After putting a pile of mail through, I noticed my mistake. I felt devastated at having messed up in what I saw was a big way.
I went to my supervisor and told her what happened. She worked with me to resolve the issue without expressing any anger. Later that day I confessed my error to my big boss. I was so bound by perfectionism at the time I thought he might fire me because of it. Instead he laughed.
“If that’s the biggest thing you do wrong in your life, you’re doing great,” he said.
What I failed to see was that he knew my heart. He had observed I was a hard worker who always wanted to do her best. He wasn’t looking for perfection, but diligence. Months later I was called into his office and offered a promotion to become an insurance agent—something he said, “We have never offered to anyone under the age of 21.”
On the way into his office I feared I was going to be fired since once again I was mulling over mistakes I’d made on the job.
I’ve battled this issue before the Lord. I want to be perfect—to do a perfect job as a Christian. So often I’ve failed. Excessive grieving over my lack of perfection has hurt my relationship with others and with God. Living in a sense of dread that God would “fire me” robbed me of joy. It has taken much convincing to realize that God—just like my earthly boss—also looks at my heart and appreciates my diligence and my desire to be all He’s called me to be.
In days past when I’ve read Matthew 5:48 I’ve felt bad.
“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
How I longed to accomplish my “be perfect” goal, but I repeatedly felt I was failing at it.
Then one day I read the verse in the Amplified Bible
You, therefore, must be perfect [growing into complete maturity of godliness in mind and character having reached the proper height of virtue and integrity], as your heavenly Father is perfect.
God helped me see that I was growing more mature and was also growing in godliness, virtue, and integrity as I embraced His corrections and instructions. My loving Lord revealed He was pleased with me because of my desire to please Him. He wasn’t consumed with my actions like I was, but He looked at my heart.
Instead of pursuing “Be perfect” in my actions, I’ve changed my goal to perfecting my attitude toward God and people, which is a process the Lord helps me with every step of the way. And when I do mess up, I go to my perfect Father who offers me His perfect forgiveness.
I thought I would find joy if only I could be perfect. Instead God has brought joy by setting me free from the trap of perfection.
How about you? Is perfectionism putting distance between you and others and you and the Lord? Go to God and let Him express His truths to you, so you can be set free.