Awhile ago, my husband told me how when he was growing up, he built elaborate snow forts every winter. The entire backyard was dedicated to his fort-building and spy games. He would build his barricade on one side of the yard, and then dig a tunnel all the way from the house to the fort. Everyone outside of the backyard was a spy, so every time a car drove by they would crouch down in the fort to remain unseen. Here’s the kicker- the rest of the backyard had to remain untouched. It was off-limits from the time the first flakes fell. Not one footprint could mar the snow. The only way anyone was allowed play in the backyard was to crawl through the tunnel and camp out in Nathan’s elaborate entrenchment. This precaution was, of course, on account of the spies. If there was one footprint in the snow, their cover was blown.
As my husband finished describing this to me, he confessed that the truth was that he hated trampled snow, and so his elaborate spy game had really just been a scheme to protect it and keep it “perfect”.
This is a wonderful analogy of perfectionism. It describes how many of us view life- relationships, in particular. A fight, disagreement, or disappointment is “trampled snow”, and we like to keep everything clean and unmarred.
So what do we do about this? How do we attack perfectionism with a vengeance?
We trample through the snow! We fill it with our footprints and make angels in it! We LIVE wholeheartedly and we stop fearing failure. I heard this quote on a podcast yesterday, “Fail quickly and get it over with!” And that’s where the freedom comes. Fail! Dance in the snow! Make mistakes!
But in order to be able to let go of our fear of failure and our perfectionistic ways, we must better understand what perfectionism is and where it comes from. After reading many books on this topic, including the Bible, I think perfectionism boils down to people-pleasing. An unhealthy desire to please others, even more than we please God. This was never God’s intention for us. Proverbs 29:25 tells us that when we focus on pleasing people, we will fall into a trap, but that fearing God brings us safety!
The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.
I don’t want to be a people-pleaser; I want to be a God-pleaser!
God didn’t create us and redeem us in order for us to live under the weight of perfectionism and people-pleasing. He didn’t save us so we could be perfect…He is perfect because we can’t be.
Listen to Jesus’ invitation to all of us living under this heavy weight:
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
Matthew 11:28-30, NKJV
In Psalms, King David reminds us of our inherently imperfect nature, and the grace of God toward us:
For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.
Psalm 103:1, 11-14, NKJV
And what do Jesus’ apostles have to say about our imperfections and weaknesses?
For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.
I John 3:20, NKJV
And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
I Corinthians 12:9-10, NKJV
Dear Jesus, I pray that You would draw me into Your heart today and remove every trace of perfectionism, and my people-pleasing ways. Replace the lie of perfectionism with an overwhelming awareness of Your love and grace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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