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Posts Tagged ‘Perfectionism’

are you still up?

That was the text sent by son #2 last Thursday evening, close to 10:00 p.m.

An interesting idea had just occurred to him, one that required input from his mother.  Maybe I should say output.

You see, Jeremy is a pastor, and although his church started worshiping together again two weeks ago, their choir is not participating in the services.  His worship leader has been singing solo; Jeremy has offered back-up.

But for May 31st, Pentecost Sunday, he was hoping for more.


First, he remembered a popular praise song released in 1998, Holy Spirit, Rain Down. Jeremy was in high school then and sang tenor on the praise team of the church where his dad (my husband) was pastor.  I sang alto. 

After reminding me of the song, Jeremy wondered if I could record that alto part with an instrumental/vocal track he’d send via email.  He would add the tenor part, and his worship leader the melody.

I reminded him my voice is not what it once was, and it’s been six years since I even sang in a choir.  But I didn’t want to tell him no without even trying.  Besides, how many times must I tell myself, “It. Doesn’t. Have. To. Be. Perfect!”


So on Friday, with Jeremy as my guide via phone and computer, I climbed the learning curve of Garage Band, an APP for making music with vocals and/or instruments—multiples if desired.  You’ve probably seen the results of such efforts on YouTube.  Perhaps you’ve recorded music yourself. 

Once set up, I could record as many times as needed and send Jeremy the best rendition.  But after practicing numerous times, my voice started to give out.  I had to quit.

Saturday morning was zero hour.  Either I’d be able to send Jeremy a decent alto part, or ruin his plan and tell him there would be no trio.  As I prepared to record, my heart started thrumming audibly and my breath coming faster than normal.

What is wrong with you?!  I scolded.  No one else is here in the study; you can record as many times as you want.  Get a grip!

The problem was clear:  A big cloud of nervous self-consciousness had enveloped me.

All I knew to do was pray.

Lord God, this is so silly.  WHY am I overcome with apprehension?  Even if I sing this twenty times and not one effort is perfect, what difference does it make?!


Calm these nerves, Heavenly Father.  Help me to lose focus on my performance and worship you unencumbered.  Remove this self-centeredness.  I want to be lost in the heartfelt prayer of these lyrics—so appropriate right now—and mindful only of you, my audience of One.*

Even before I’d finished, my heart rate began to slow and my breathing return to normal.  I sang the song twice, and sent the second effort to Jeremy.  It wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough.


When I confessed to Jeremy my case of senseless nerves and subsequent prayer, he said, “You’ve got a blog post here, Mom!”

Perhaps I do, I thought, since others suffer from self-consciousness also.  I wondered, Are there strategies we could implement to cure ourselves once and for all?

Here’s what a bit of reading revealed:

  • Prayer is the first step.  But we should not expect one prayer to vanquish all self-consciousness forever.  It’s a prayer we’ll likely have to renew every time that nuisance-of-an-emotion sidles up to us.
  • Focus on Who we’re seeking to honor.  The better our focus, the less we’ll be thinking about ourselves.


  • Just as Jesus told Satan to leave him alone (Matthew 4:10), we can tell the author of self-conscious thoughts to leave us alone.

Last Saturday, good enough became good aplenty. God heard my plea, immediately came to my rescue, and helped me calmly and worshipfully complete the task at hand.  I couldn’t ask for more.

_________________________________

Have you ever felt self-conscious?  What helps you to overcome it?  Please share in the comment section below!

Notes:

* “Audience of One,” by Big Daddy Weave, 2002.

  • Kristen Armstrong quote from Work in Progress, 2009, p. 37.
  • Oswald Chambers quote from My Utmost for His Highest, 1935, p. 232.


Art & photo credits: http://www.pxfuel.com; http://www.canva.com (4).


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Years ago I read a story that still comes to mind now and then.

As I recall, an older church member (a woman of very high standards which she vocalized frequently), came to visit a young mother of the church—unannounced.

The impromptu hostess—we’ll call her Beth—invited Mrs. Perfect into her home, grateful that she’d straightened up a bit after her two older children left for school. The two younger ones were playing quietly with new Legos (How fortunate was that?), allowing the two women to chat.

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As they sat at the kitchen table, Beth considered the room from her guest’s perspective: table cleared, dishes done, counters not too cluttered or spotted. Whew.

Then she saw it: an orange peel on the floor—not a fresh strip from breakfast; more likely from last week. How did I miss that? Beth thought. One thing for sure: Mrs. Perfect wouldn’t miss it. It was in plain view from where she sat, too.

Suddenly, Beth experienced an epiphany. What difference did it make to her if this poor, old woman noticed the orange peel? Mrs. Perfect, however, would leave with a spring in her step because she would never allow such filth to remain undetected on her floor.

And Beth smiled to herself as the other woman prattled on about the upcoming bazaar.   I hope that orange peel makes her day. And Beth truly meant it.

God brings that story to my mind because I have to fight against perfectionism, too.

Obsessive man laying on grass, perfection

And the reasons? So others will be pleased with me, appreciate me, and admire my efforts. Notice: me, me, my.

Clearly perfectionism is a close relative of self-centeredness.  Oh, Lord, forgive me.

I pray God steers me away from such counter-productive expectations of myself. Instead, I want to strive for excellence.

Yes, there is a difference between perfection and excellence.

Perfectionists have the tendency to:

  • Set unreasonably high standards
  • Experience satisfaction only when those high standards are met
  • Become depressed over failures and disappointments
  • Be controlled by fear of failure and therefore procrastinate
  • Worry about disapproval when mistakes are made

On the other hand, those striving for excellence are likely to:

  • Set standards that are high but reachable
  • Enjoy the process as well as the outcome
  • Recover quickly from failures and disappointments
  • Keep fear under control with positive truth
  • View mistakes as opportunities for growth

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For the Christian, excellence should be our loving response to God, with the desire to please him.

And what might those responses look like, as we strive for excellence?

  • Ask God to reveal what his expectations are. Then invite him to work in us toward meeting his standard:  maturity (James 1:4).
  • Take pleasure in signs of spiritual growth, as we manifest the fruit of the Spirit more and more each day (Philippians 1:9-11).
  • Turn to him for encouragement and strength when failures and disappointments come (Psalm 18:25-33).
  • Keep fear under control with appropriate scriptures and uplifting devotionals (Psalm 118:5-8).
  • View mistakes as opportunities to grow in maturity and in our relationship with God (Proverbs 24:16).

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(By the way, when the Bible tells us to be perfect (as in Matthew 5:48), the words, mature and complete are helpful synonyms to interpose. Perfection is not within our abilities to achieve (Romans 3:23). We know it and God knows it.

Here’s what we can do:

“Strive toward holiness, yet relax in grace.”

–Philip Yancey

 

Isn’t that a wonderfully balanced goal?

Let’s remember: “Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone [including ourselves] put a harness of slavery [to perfectionism] on you.” – Galatians 5:1 (MSG)*

*Words in brackets added.

Photo credits:  www.deeprootsathome.com; http://www.femhack.com; http://www.worshipmatters.com; http://www.pinterest.com (2).

What are your thoughts about perfectionism and Christian excellence?  Share your comments below!

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