Updated: May 18, 2020
I crave perfection. I wouldn’t normally admit that outright because I know I can’t be perfect. I know that I’m human and that I’m going to make mistakes and that is ok. But my inner monologue often tells a different story. I spend a lot of wasted mental space worrying about if I’ve said the right words, if I’m doing enough to support the people around me, if I’m being a good enough mom so that I won’t screw up my kids, if I’m communicating well enough with my husband.
While it’s not bad to consider those things and to spend time reflecting on how I’ve gotten it wrong and how I can do better, I often set the bar too high. I want to do it all perfectly. I want to be the perfect mother, the perfect wife, the perfect friend. I want to be patient, gentle, loving, selfless, and wise 100% of the time. Don’t get me wrong – I recognize that I’m not perfect. I can see my flaws clearly. But I strive for perfection, and if I’m honest, I expect perfection from myself. So when I don’t meet the high bar that I set, I feel like I’ve failed. I get so frustrated with myself for making the same mistakes again. I dwell on how I could have done better. That just seems to make me spiral downward. It throws me off and it’s hard to regain control.
A few months ago, I went to see a play that my friend’s daughter was in. Her role was a small part – one of the background characters – but since this was her first play, she was very nervous about it. As I was talking with my friend after the show, she said that her daughter knew her dance steps so well and she had great rhythm, but she so badly wanted to do it all perfectly that it would sometimes throw her off.
This comment stuck with me because I relate so much. That’s my problem. I’ve got what I need to be the person that God is calling me to be, but I get so focused on not messing up that it throws me off. I struggle to just pick up and keep moving forward when I make a mistake because I’m spending too much time punishing myself for being human.
The expectation of perfection is a heavy weight to bear, and it’s one that I was never meant to carry. No one else expects me to be perfect – not my husband, not my kids, not my friends, and especially not God. God has always known that I can’t be perfect, which is why he came to rescue me. He’s not surprised when I make mistakes, and it doesn’t ever change his love for me or the way that he perceives me. I am loved. Period.
There is actually so much beauty in admitting my flaws, recognizing that I am fully known and also fully loved and accepted. I don’t have to hide. I don’t have to heap shame on myself. I don’t have to strive for something I can never attain. That brings such incredible freedom.
What if I just let go? What if I just danced my part – trusting that I know the steps – and let the music carry me? I might miss a step here and there, but I would keep going. The dance would not be ruined. We would all just enjoy the show.
What if I just let go? What if I stopped trying to be the perfect mom, wife, friend? What if I was just present with the people around me – trusting that I know how to love them well – and let the Spirit carry me? I might say a wrong word here and there, but I would seek forgiveness and just keep going. They wouldn’t be destroyed because they would know my love for them. And we would all just enjoy the journey.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9