Originally published Tuesday, 04 September 2012.
I burst out laughing when I saw this photo of the elderly man on his hands and knees "mowing" his lawn with a pair of scissors. Why? Because I honest-to-goodness have edged my yard with kitchen shears! I know it's silly to some, but to those of us who struggle with having complete order in our lives, it makes perfect sense! Thanks goodness I am not near as bad as I used to be.
From a very young age, I made by bed and kept my room spotless. It translated into my teen years, where I not only kept my room orderly, but my locker was organized, and my homework and grades were always superb. I tried to do everything with perfection. When I was pregnant with my first-born, everyone said that I would get over my "neatness" once I had a newborn. No....I just taught my small children to clean up after themselves from an early age. My apartment was always neat.
Much of my early struggle with perfectionism came as an obsession to control what I could in an effort to cope with what I could not. In other words, behind closed doors I was an abuse victim who lived with violence, profanity, and utter chaos much of the time, so I was determined to have a neat bedroom and control my grades -- since I couldn't control my home life. Later, I couldn't control that my life was spiraling out of control as a young single mom, but I could control my grades in college, how neat my desk was at work, and how clean my children were.
As my children aged, this need for perfection resulted in some poor parenting choices. I eventually learned that I was teaching my kids that it was more important to have straight As than to have a good relationship with me. Even a high B was often not good enough. I would find myself asking, "What didn't you know? What could you have done better?" I found myself micro-managing their grades, their rooms, their friends -- demanding perfection in every area. It was exhausting! The Lord really dealt with me in this area.
Colossians 3:23 urges us to work "as unto the Lord." It doesn't require perfection. It requires excellence. There's a huge difference. My excellence isn't your excellence. The Lord simply requires us to be the best teacher, house painter, mother, friend, or banker that we can be. That's it. It doesn't have to be perfect.
Allow yourself to be who God created you to be. Accept the fact that you aren't a great cook as God's way of allowing a fine chef to excel. There are plenty of other things you are great at. It is okay to be the perfect you and that doesn't have to be perfect!
Author/Speaker Jennifer Maggio is considered one of the nation's leading authorities on single parents' and mothers' issues. She is the founder of Overwhelmed: The Single Moms Magazine and The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. She has been featured on countless radio and television programs and has a heart to see that no single mother walks alone. For more information, visit http://www.thelifeofasinglemom.com.