I was reading online an article by Amanda Ruggeri on the dangers of perfectionism. She writes the following in “The Dangerous Downsides of Perfectionism”:
“The trouble is that, for perfectionists, performance is intertwined with their sense of self. When they don’t succeed, they don’t just feel disappointment about how they did. They feel shame about who they are. Ironically, perfectionism then becomes a defence tactic to keep shame at bay: if you’re perfect, you never fail, and if you never fail, there’s no shame.”
Likely you know a few people motivated by perfectionism. I’ve heard it preached in subtle ways. I’ve seen it sometimes in the way some keep their homes, their vehicles, their hair, and even in the expectations of their children. I am not against cleanliness or neatness, but there is something wrong if the motivating factor is fear of shame or that sense of personal identity.
Most false religious practices get twisted by some strong teaching related to being or becoming perfect in this life, with all the attachments of a style of legalism. For those of us adopted into Christ’s family, I believe in a practical sense we will never attain perfection in this life However the good news is that by being ‘in Christ’ we have already gained a perfection that is not our own. For me I can now rest in being loved and accepted. I am not perfect in that practical sense, but I am forgiven and I can rejoice in being an adopted son of God! My shortcomings do not need to impede my sense of identity.
Yes, shortcomings I still have. By the Spirit’s work in me I am not left alone in my inner wrestlings on attitudes and behaviours that are not of God. The Spirit is continually at work in me. Yes, there may be some outworkings of that which might have the appearance of a type of conformity to a Christian standard. There is good in that, but not if I by my own strength am trying to put forward the right ‘look’.
In this current season many of us are living with less. We may have less salary, less social gathering, less in terms of populating of material goods around us, and less in terms of freedoms we used to enjoy. Maybe a better goal is to have less of ‘me’ and more of the fruit of the Spirit. More love, more joy, more peace … you get the picture.
The Apostle Paul knew what it was to have plenty and what it was to have little. We need to be able to embrace whatever circumstances surround us with joy and a strong sense that God is still in charge of all things.
The prophet in Habakkuk 3:17-18 writes:
“Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!”
We have enough if we have Jesus. We need no more, no less.
Your co-worker, Dennis