Welcome to my series on Letting go of Perfect. All month long, I’m joining with other writers for The Nester’s 31 Days project.
As I’ve been thinking through this series, I keep thinking about several heart issues that are at the root of perfectionism.
Often, the heart of perfectionism is pride. We take great satisfaction in the things that we do, the work of our hands. We find too much satisfaction in our children’s good grades or adorable matching outfits. We don’t want to be late, not because it’s rude to be late, but because we don’t want to appear rude, selfish, lazy, or as if we can’t get it together enough to make it somewhere on time.
These are the kind of behind-the-scenes photos that really happen at our house. I put my kids in coordinating costumes and my son pitched a fit over wearing a top hat.
2. Desire to Control
Those of us who struggle with perfectionism find that if we really sit and mull over our actions, a lot of them stem from a desire to control. So when I tell my daughter no, she can’t pick out yellow nail polish, I tell her this because I think yellow polish is tacky, and I don’t want her to make such a bad choice. Does it really matter? No, it doesn’t. But we want our kids to make the right choice, and of course we’re the only ones who know what’s right.
Yes, I did end up letting her paint her nails yellow.
I see this sometimes when a friend or family member comes over and tells my children how to play. My child wants to build a castle out of blocks, but someone wants him to build a bridge instead. Ridiculous? Yep. But we do it all the time.
We do it to our husbands when we think we know the best route somewhere or the best way to do family devotionals. We do it when we make our kids get out of their dress up clothes just to go to the store. At some point in motherhood, I finally realized that the beauty of being a 4 year old little girl is that you can wear fairy wings to restaurants. Grown-ups should probably leave the wings at home. (You can see my article on the MOPS website here).
3. Love of Approval
When we find ourselves trying to gain the approval of others, that’s when we know we’re treading on dangerous ground. God’s approval is what matters, and we usually can’t please both God and man. The person whose approval we’re seeking is, essentially, an idol. Or perhaps our status is the idol.
We fear situations, like various sicknesses and any of the gazillion things that the internet and the blogosphere tell us we should be worried about. And we think if we just do this one thing that the bloggers or other moms tell us to do, we can avoid that scary situation. So we hyper parent. And we choose our crusades against or in favor of any number of things, from shampoos to organic produce to disposable diapers. I’m all in favor of informed decisions and making wise choices, but sometimes, the choices in themselves become our idols. We think that somehow, if we do it all perfectly, then surely we’ll never experience our worst fears.
But you know what? All of these things are an illusion anyway. We’re not in control of it. Our sovereign creator is.
I really think that the root of all of these struggles is a lack of trust in God.
Instead of taking satisfaction in Christ, we’re satisfied by our own works.
Instead of resting in His sovereign plan, we hyper control.
Instead of living for Christ, we live to keep up with what the other moms are doing.
And instead of recognizing that God loves and cares for our children far greater than we do, we think that we can somehow insulate them from all the scary and bad stuff in the world. We let fear and worry take the place of trust, and we call it good motherhood.
And if we can just have our lives go perfectly enough, then I suppose we can be our own gods. The idolatry of me. I can trust in Him or me. But not both. I can try so hard to create my idea of perfect or I can trust in His perfect plan. It doesn’t always feel perfect, but with the eyes of God, the eyes that see the beginning as well as the ending of the story, it truly is perfect.
What do you think is the root of perfectionism? Which of these do you relate to the most?