Perfecting the Art of Perfectionism

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holderness

Sigh…why can’t we all be like the Holderness family and rock out the Christmas jammies.

Previously, I presented the frightful side of complacency. Now it’s time to talk about its evil partner in crime…perfectionism.  Especially considering it’s the holiday season, when there is so much pressure for everything to be perfect. Sure, I could write about the Christmas story in Luke, like so many other believers around this time who strive to bring back “the reason for the season.” However, I think getting the perfection gremlin out of the way is key to keeping us all sane during this time. And don’t put down the cookie. You know you want it ;-).

I like to think that I am pretty laid-back and easy going…at least I did until I read an article on the Huff called 14 Signs Your Perfectionism Has Gotten Out of Control. And I’m guilty of pretty much all of what is listed. I never really considered myself a perfectionist because…well…I eff up so many times. Sure, I always knew perfectionists were total Type-A’s , but they were also regularly on point, in nearly every aspect of their lives. They worked and stressed tirelessly, but it showed. Everything was…to the millimeter…perfect.

On the other hand, I am pretty lazy in several areas. I do the bare minimum to get ready in the morning. I don’t wear make-up every day. I procrastinate on chores I need to do. I’ll leave a mess around longer than I should. But at the same time, I constantly feel I am not pretty enough, smart enough, and often freak out because my place is a mess and people are coming over in 45 minutes.

Brené Brown, a social scientist best known about her work on shame, breaks it down like this:

“Perfectionism is not about striving for excellence or healthy striving. It’s…a way of thinking and feeling that says this: ‘If I look perfect, do it perfect, work perfect and live perfect, I can avoid or minimize shame, blame and judgment.'”

And then I realized…I don’t have to appear perfect to be a perfectionist.  It’s a mindset, not necessarily what is presented to the world. When we are so afraid of people seeing us fail, it can drive us into complacency mode if we’re not careful. We become too afraid of what others think that we retreat into our hidey-holes while the world passes us by.

There has been a lot on the Interwebz lately about perfectionism. I sense that the world at large is sick of hiding behind fake smiles and sparkly Facebook statuses, and seeking a sense of connection.  A while back, one of my favorite bloggers Dan Peace (Single Dad Laughing) posted this poignant piece called ‘The Disease of Perfection.” It received thousands of responses by people from all walks of life, who were sick of the façades. I believe this post needs to be required reading for…well…all of modern society.

Perfection really hits us hard. It’s that gnawing feeling that we are not good enough. But why do we indulge it?

Dan states that the cure for this “disease” is just “being real” with people. The Bible definitely states that in James 5:16: “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so you may be healed. They prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

OK, that’s awesome, but I don’t exactly have any inkling to go knock on my neighbor’s door and tell him/her that I called someone a “nasty bitch” when she cut me off in the parking lot. How do I know my neighbor will not lambaste me for being a dirty potty-mouth, and wonder if I am really saved if I think like that?

I’ll just keep this dirty deed to myself, thank you very much. Like David says in Psalm 139:11: “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light will become night around me.” I was in my car, she didn’t hear me…it’s all cool…

Perfectionism is one of the enemy’s favorite scams. I like to think of the enemy as a sleazy used car salesman…lots of flashy deals and shiny cars in the lot, but as soon as you seal the deal and drive off, you’re stranded. We can keep our less savory secrets hidden at one low, low price…not telling anyone. But we all know 0% down payment means paying out the butt in interest.

You'll be ballin wit this candy paint and rims. Just hope you can cruise 4 blocks...

You’ll be ballin with this candy paint and rims. Just hope you can cruise 4 blocks…

The enemy will hustle you to hide your imperfections, while pressuring you to present your best self to the world. So your façade of perfection will make others feel so inadequate they won’t even want to seek help and will wallow in complacency and/or bitterness…never healing. He will tell you that if you desire someone’s perfect life, it’s yours for the taking. You are not trying hard enough. That car can be yours…

Once a problem is revealed, God’s light has a chance to shine. He “reveals deep and hidden things; He knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells within Him” (Daniel 2:22). And going back to what James 5:16 says, in the hands of the righteous person, from whom God’s light shines, the healing can begin.

But the enemy is a word-twister. He wants you to think the “righteous people” can’t wait to condemn you to hell. Came out of the closet? Maybe you were told you’re a sinner and will never inherit the kingdom. Got pregnant out of wedlock and then called a whore behind your back? Perhaps you confessed your indulgence in porn and were called a dirty, unthinkable pervert and lost your job. After all…isn’t that many people’s experience with the so-called “religious” and “righteous”?

However, “righteousness” is not that lemon the enemy wants to sell you. It was bought at an extremely high price (the crucifixion of Christ), and through His grace was given to you. It was bought at a price that you could never afford, no matter how much you scrimp, save, and achieve (Matthew 18:25-35; parable of indebted servant). Righteousness and perfection come through what God has done, and not what you can achieve.

Anyone can be righteous through Christ. We are all imperfect, and only through Him can we achieve any semblance of perfection. I write this to myself to remind myself every day, just as I write to you.

It may not be the hottest thing to say, and it’s not the fanciest car on the lot, but it’s the truth and it’s reliable. Just ask anyone who looks like they are cruising around in that tricked-out ride of perfection. How are they holding up? Perhaps try reading the 6,000+ comments on Dan Pierce’s aforementioned blog post and see how they are holding up.

Cheap rims look cool, but they will eventually spin out of control ;-).

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