12 Nov Perfectionism: It’s Only Hurting Yourself
I admit it, I have hopped on the perfection band wagon from time to time. I was haunted by over hearing people say, “well she/he was a Christian, so they should know better,” whenever someone Christian made a mistake. I hated the idea of not ever living up to this unrealistic standard I had decided in my mind is where I could finally relax and be happy with who I was in my Christian walk. I had to be perfect in order to be loved – not only by others, but by Jesus himself. I needed to deal with all my sin and overcome all my temptations before Jesus would favour me and show his love to me. I had to live the perfect life and hide my imperfect feelings to be accepted by others in my Christian family. I struggled in silence with the darkest parts of my heart because they weren’t the “Christian” way of thinking or feeling, and the more I felt them, the more I’d beat myself up. I struggled with this idea that being a Christian, meant living the perfect, sinless life.
I am not 100% sure where I got these lies fed to me, but that’s exactly what they were – lies. I am not sure when I started to put limits on the gospel, but I wasn’t living the good news. I am not sure when I fell into the frustrating cycle of legalism, but I was unknowingly walking in the bondage Jesus died on the cross for. I was stuck in a cycle of weakness, sin, feel guilty, repent, try on my own to not sin, repeat. I was exhausted. If this was Christianity, I was failing, and I was frustrated. Where was the freedom from sin that Jesus had promised me? Why did I feel like the only one who just couldn’t get it? Was I doing something wrong? Was I ever going to be good enough for God to save me from my sin? Was this really what the Christian life looked like and people just forced smiles on their faces to hide their shame?
This is what would run through my head after every failed attempt at trying to overcome temptation on my own. It was exhausting. I was worn out. I was tired of living with all of this regret and guilt. I was tired of trying to be perfect in order to earn God’s love. Do you see my problem? “I” was the problem. I was struggling so hard to be perfect in order to come to God, that I was trying to be my own version of Jesus. In my struggle for perfection I was not allowing room for the good news of what Jesus really did on that cross fully into my life. In my search for perfectionism, I was leaving no room for Jesus.
I know it may seem simple, but I wasn’t allowing the gospel to really transform my life. I was failing at a weak attempt of legalism, and not the freedom of the gospel. I felt every ounce of guilt and shame for messing up. I didn’t understand that there was freedom from this when Jesus paid the ultimate price on the cross. I fell into the trap of trying to keep the law, rather than seeing Jesus was the fulfillment of the law and I was free from all of this guilt and condemnation. I was free from the consequences of my sin because Jesus died and rose again. I was saved and redeemed through the precious blood of Jesus!! Gone were the days of my striving and failing. This day was a game changer for me! I realized that it wasn’t my own attempts of overcoming sin that would allow this defeat, it was by allowing Jesus to truly transform my heart to align with his will that my temptations would become less. Sin was defeated, and now I had to let Jesus tear down the strongholds by inviting him in to these unrighteous thoughts and patterns.
By saying or thinking we need to be perfect in order to be accepted by Jesus, is taking away from what Jesus did on that cross. So lets go of seeing Christians as perfect. We will never be perfect, that’s why we need Jesus. Are we called to live different? Yes. Do we have a higher calling to living life? Yes. But we will mess up, we will stumble and fall, we will break the commandments from time to time, but the truth is, Jesus is our righteousness. When God looks at us he doesn’t see the messes that we are, he sees the righteousness of Christ covering us. We are free from our sin. By allowing Jesus into our lives and committing our lives to following him, he transforms our hearts to want to follow the law because we love him so much. His Spirit will write the law on our hearts. It’s not what we do, its what HE does. We will fail- our flesh is weak. But we are forgiven when we do, and are free to try again with the help of Jesus. The freedom we were called to walk in is such an amazing gift from our father in Heaven! Why would we ever want to be trapped in the depressing trap of perfection again?
It drives me nuts when people say “well she is Christian, she should know better.” Yes, I am positive I should know better, but I am human, just like you, so I often fail. Like I said before, my flesh is weak and I give in to temptation far more than I should. I let words slip out of my mouth that don’t express love. I think of myself more than others often. I am in a work in progress. My heart had been hardened from years of living in darkness and that change isn’t going to happen overnight. But I no longer have to feel like I am too dirty to come to Jesus. He knows everything I have been through and because of that, he know’s how my heart tends to fall into sin. He is renewing me, and it tearing of the chains of my past, and its a messy, but beautiful journey. Instead of beating myself up, I know I have a Father I can run to. He will be there with arms wide open waiting to forgive me and cleanse my heart from falling into those same sins over and over. I am free from the feelings of shame of my mistakes and free from the fear of being stuck dealing with the same sin over and over and that’s all because of my Saviour and my Redeemer. Each day he is molding my heart to follow his law- not out of obligation, but out of pure love for him. I am sure there are going to be days when I am going to fail and make mistakes, and some of those mistakes may be huge. Some may not be what you expect from a Christian, but my public mistakes do not show the hidden work of Jesus in my heart afterwords. Just because I am a Christian doesn’t mean that I won’t sometimes fall from the holy life God has called me to live. I am just like you. But every time I fall, I will learn. There is no sin to big or to dirty for Jesus forgive and cleanse us of. It’s just all about surrender.
I know I am going to have days when I don’t act like the “perfect” Christian. I am now aiming for progress over perfection. I do not have to worry about how my heart will overcome certain temptations and sins. All I have to do is surrender my desires to Jesus and let him cleanse my heart. I may fall down 7 times, but I will get up 8. I have the creator of the universe as the King of my heart and he is so much bigger than my mistakes. He is faithful to complete his good works in me. This Christian life is about so much more than being perfect, it’s a journey with Jesus. It’s about love, and compassion for others. It’s about realizing we will never be perfect, and that is why we need Jesus so much. Without him, we would be destined for a life of striving and defeat… so let go of that idea of the perfect Christian. Jesus wants your dirtiness. Every dirty thought of your heart, and every dirty temptation. If you hide behind the façade of perfectionism, how can Jesus ever cleanse the wickedness in your heart?
I spent way too long trying to pretend I wasn’t angry, and I wasn’t bitter about the choices I had made and the people who had hurt me. I lacked a heart of forgiveness, but I was quick to pretend that I didn’t feel any of that because I was ashamed of the wickedness… so I allowed my dark heart to be off- limits to God and in turn, He wasn’t able to cleanse it. I was stuck in my sin because I never allowed Jesus in. But that moment of surrender is beautiful… It’s a moment of saying Jesus I am not perfect, but you are, so come into this mess and turn it into something beautiful. He is so faithful to do so. It’s rarely done how we think it should be, but he is oh so faithful to turn beauty from ashes.
So, I will admit that as a Christian, I am not perfect. I don’t want to be labelled as perfect, because if I am, then it takes away from the amazing power of Jesus in my life. What being a Christian does mean, is that I was a sinner and I still walk in a sinful flesh, but I have a Saviour who is quick to forgive me of my sins and mistakes and will still love me all the same.