“Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:18)
Well, this seems like quite the daunting task to undertake. No pressure or anything, right? I can definitely put that one on my [long] list of failures.
Personally, I have always struggled with the idea of perfectionism, especially lately. I try to set lofty goals for myself and then get frustrated when I don’t achieve them. These goals are sometimes physical (like getting up early in the morning, exercising, eating right, etc.) or spiritual (like reading scripture every night or maintaining a substantial prayer life) I try to love the people around me, and to be a good representation of all the things that a good Christian, and good woman, is supposed to be. Loving, gentle, strong, beautiful, happy, joyful.
But I always fall short. I become so angry at myself for failing, because I think that I could definitely have done more. And as a result, It is so easy for me to adopt defeatist views, and to not do something or say something just because I know I might embarrass myself, or not do it the right way. What’s the point anyway, if I’m going to do so much work and not meet up to my standards, to God’s standards? Sound familiar?
But is that how life is supposed to be lived? Is that how God wants us to live, really? Always striving towards the unattainable goal of Godly perfectionism?
As women, I think this is an especially difficult concept. I think that every woman has this innate fear of being “too much”, or “not enough”. For God, our significant others, our friends, ourselves. Of not matching up to some standard that we believe is set for us. This is the root of all of our feminine insecurities, believing the lie that we are not enough, and never can be.
All this being said, there is so much beauty and meaning in the idea that there is always something more to become. That we can become more devoted to God, more prayerful, more loving human beings. To have something to strive for, some goal to achieve, that we know the means of achieving. The road to self improvement is a beautiful journey, and it can show what human beings are capable of achieving through the Grace of God.
But it is just that: a journey.
We often view the steps to achieving a goal as a means to an end. Doing something so we can be done with it, and have that fit body, that honed skill, that exemplary prayer life, that degree, that job. But the truth is, perfection is never achieved, no matter how hard we work. After we achieve a goal, there is always another one to work for. And thinking about it like that is simply exhausting. Being a perfect Christian will never happen because of our fallen human nature. But my point is, as good and healthy and necessary as it is to set goals for ourselves, it is easy to become so goal-oriented that we forget the process.
I once read that “God doesn’t want more from us, He wants more for us”. This phrase really resonated in my soul, it felt like God was gently whispering, “Julia, you are enough,” He doesn’t demand us to become perfect for Him, but to allow Him to work in us, to be in the process. He wants us to come to Him as we are, not as we wish we could be. He wants more than anything to enrich our lives with His Spirit, but because of our free will, we have to let go of the reigns first.
“Let it be a process”
This is my new favorite phrase. You know, when you have a favorite phrase and it gets the privilege of being doodled on all of your notebooks, put on sticky notes in commonly viewed places. This has been that phrase for me these last few weeks.
I often get so blinded by the goal that I forget the beauty, the lessons that can be learned, the wonderful things that the process to the goal consists of. When I read this phrase, I realize that things take time, and I want to be fully immersed in the process. Let our relationships continually grow and become stronger, instead of being pressured to be something they’re not, or aren’t meant to be. Another quote I love is “Once she stopped rushing through life, she was amazed at how much more life she had time for.” Although I can’t find who said these words, I love the truth they express! Once I stop wanting everything to be done at once, I can let myself enjoy the process and feel the growth, soak in the essence of life. Everything doesn’t need to be done at once. Through slowing down a little, I am amazed at much more at peace I am, and in turn, how much more focused and motivated I am. When we slow down, we allow the Lord to show us beauty. Beauty in people, in places, in things. To soak in the sacrament of the present moment, which is the realization of Christ’s perpetual presence in our lives, at every moment.
What is Perfection Really?
Another point to make is that God doesn’t say “Be perfect by your definition of perfect, by Satan’s definition of perfect, by the world’s definition of perfect.” he says “Be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect.” We are called to imitate Christ, not our own idea of perfectionism. I think it is vital that we recognize this difference. Christ was humble, attributing all of His Glory, His Power, His Strength, to His Father. He was submissive to God’s will in the Garden of Gethsemane. The next most perfect human being by God’s standards was Mary. A young, 14 year old girl. But to achieve all that He asked of her, all she had to do was submit, and to say “I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to Thy Word.” That’s all. She didn’t have to prove her skills to God in order for Him to want her to be His Mother. True perfection lies in perfect surrender.
The Lord wants us to put our skills, our abilities, our hopes and our fears, our dreams and our gifts into His hands. He knows what’s coming in our lives, He knows the seasons we’ll go through, and he knows what we’ll need to be able to do. Ladies, all we need to do is our best. My mom always tells me, “You can’t do anymore than your best, no one can expect that from you.” Even God. He doesn’t expect any more than our best. He wants us to do our very best, and trust Him with the rest. (Hey, that rhymes.)
And we will fail. It will happen. We will be disappointed. With our lives, with others, and especially with ourselves. But we must remember to be ready to accept disappointment, and learn to love ourselves within it.
Here are some practical tips from your fellow perfectionist. :)
1. Set small, achievable goals in whatever area of your life you want to improve. You will feel wonderful when you accomplish them! Small steps are better than big steps never taken.
2. Take deep breaths. No, really. Many and Often. It sounds cliche, but it gets more oxygen to your brain cells, causing them to work better. And helps with the slowing down I was talking about.
3. Remember that your worth is not defined by what you accomplish, but in who you are. The Lord delights in you!
Let us offer up to the Lord our definition of perfectionism, our expectations of ourselves, and the expectations that the world puts on us. Let us offer up the lies of all the things the world tells us we need to be to be a “good” woman. Let us give our lives, our efforts, and our desires to God, emptying ourselves in our endeavors, trusting that he will continue to fill us up with his love and strength.
My name is Julia, and I've had the pleasure of growing up in the beautiful state of Michigan. Currently, I'm a junior in high school who is just trying to figure out what it means to be a truly authentic woman of Our Lord, and how to write about it. I have two sisters, both younger than me, and have had the blessing of being homeschooled through middle school. During my freshman year I experienced a real conversion to Christ and have been falling more deeply in love with Him ever since.
Julia runs her own blog, called The Living Tabernacle.