Originally published Friday, 08 April 2016.
Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.
2 Corinthians 12:9 (NLT)
One of my clearest childhood memories involves my desire to be perfect.
I’m about 7 or 8 and I'm sitting on the carpet in my speech therapists office. And I’m crying. Sobbing, the kind that you can’t catch your breath for, the kind of tears that you cry when you’ve lost something of great worth.
The tears were all because I kept doing a task wrong. I had to read a list of questions and then choose a tile with the corresponding picture. Once they were all placed on a grid I could flip the grid over, and if I was correct there would be a picture on the other side. I had been doing this for a couple of sessions but still could not get a complete picture to appear on the other side.
I was distraught because I failed at this task. Not just that task but reading and writing in general. I came to be in the speech therapists office because my teacher couldn’t understand a thing I wrote. My brain scrambled up the vowels. The sounds I heard, and the vowels I wrote or spoke, had no correlation.
That day in the speech therapists office the weight of imperfection made me feel like life wasn’t worth living. The tears fell. Adele, the speech therapist, kept asking me what was wrong. I stammered, “I’m not perfect.”
Adele spoke softly to me. I don’t remember much of what she said but I do remember her telling me that, no one is perfect and if we’d been perfect Jesus wouldn’t have had to die so we could be with him forever. I remember that this soothed me.
I’m retelling this story now because it’s one of the reasons I’m embracing “well” this year. I’m learning that “well” and “perfect” aren’t the same thing. “Well” refers to doing something healthily – with balance – where as “perfect” leaves no room for my humanity.
In so many ways I’m still the little girl who believes I have to be perfect to be accepted.
I’m still buckling under the weight of every one else’s expectations.
I’m still terrified that who I am isn’t enough.
I’m still trying to accept that God’s grace is enough for me. << Tweet this
I don’t know, maybe I'm the only one that has believes perfection equals acceptance however I’ve got a feeling that there are a lot of us walking around needing to give ourselves more grace (can I get a “Me too” in the comments?).
As I was thinking about writing this blog I was looking for a bible verse. I couldn’t find it, so I googled, “Bible Verse perfect”.
2 seconds later Google returned these results:
21 Bible verses about being a perfect Christian
Be perfect – Clarified King James Version
Ugh! Do you feel it just reading those? The weight to be something you’re not. The feeling that you’ll never measure up.
When I look at scripture I see a lot of bible verses that speak to God being the strength in our weakness, the grace we need when we make mistakes, the one who is present when our knees knock together and our mouths go dry, the carrier of our burdens when they grow to heavy. That doesn’t sound a lot like the actions of God who expects perfection from his people.
Jesus never wanted us to believe we were only accepted when we are perfect. << Tweet this
Like Adele told my seven year-old self, Jesus died because we weren't perfect.
It's worth remembering that Jesus accepted us in our imperfections. Jesus chose to die for us when we were imperfect.
I know these kinds of beliefs are easier to talk about then to stop believing so here are 3 actions I’m taking to break this belief:
1. Naming it
I’ve learnt in life that it’s hard to stop believing anything if I am not first willing to admit that I believe it. That’s part of what this blog is about. I’m breaking up with the need to perfect. And I’m doing it in public. That’s part of the reason that you’re reading this on a website that is half-finished. In the past I would never have let you see something that wasn’t perfect or finished but if I’m going to change a lot I need to start with small things.
2. Practicing helpful statements
If you’re a perfectionist this won’t come as a surprise to you but perfectionism comes with the nasty habit of being hyper self-critical. The best way to break that habit is practice making realistic helpful statements when I think critically. I’m using a lot of bible verses here. Things like, “Making a mistake doesn’t mean I’m failure, God’s grace is enough for me in this”.
3. Having grace for myself
And then I’m not being too hard on myself when I slip back into perfectionist tendencies. A tweet I read last week by Allison Fallon really helped me in this area:
“Have grace for yourself.
Forgive yourself for buying into the belief
that you had to be perfect.”
By the way, the irony that I can feel like a failure at stopping believing I'm perfect is not lost on me.
I know it isn’t easy - I’ve been struggling with this belief since I was a 7 year-old – and I sure haven’t got the hang of it yet, so I’d love to hear from any of you who have broken this belief that perfection is needed for acceptance.
Prayer: Lord, show me daily that your grace is more than enough for every fault, every mistake and every imperfection. Help me to forgive myself as you have forgiven me. Amen.