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I have a tendency to be a perfectionist.
When it comes to work, hospitality, marriage, parenting, my faith, my relationships… I just want to get everything right. (Yes, I realize this is impossible. But it doesn’t always stop me from trying.) For me—being a perfectionist looks like paying a lot of attention to details, giving things extra thought and care, and showing my love for God and people through my efforts. Sometimes this works out beautifully and I am fulfilled and everyone is honored. Other times this has caused people, myself included, a lot of pain and heartache. Especially when I start expecting others to show love the same way or can’t get something to be “perfect” no matter how hard I try…
Confession: I’ve been known, on the rare occasion, to not try at all if I believed I couldn’t do something perfectly. And in this scenario, everyone loses. I’ve also been known to be so caught up in how something should be, I don’t appreciate when it’s mostly good.
Just last night I hosted a small dinner party—and I cooked an Italian style pot roast. (YUMMY!) I planned my menu and shopped in advance, organized everything for the meal the day before, and got the roast in the crockpot over 8 hours prior to mealtime. Still, I wasn’t happy with the end result of the meal. I didn’t think the roast was tender enough, the smashed cauliflower wasn’t creamy enough, I didn’t plan for enough ice, and I was disappointed because it wasn’t perfect. (FACT: Everyone licked their plates clean and it was delicious.) I’m embellishing a little bit here to make a point, but the reality is, I was disappointed AND I spent so much time nitpicking in the kitchen that I didn’t enjoy our friends as much as I could have if I’d abandoned my pursuit of perfection.
(Ugg and yes, for the record, I’ve read “Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World” by Joanna Weaver. Phenomenal book for perfectionists. I’m still growing…)
Wanting to lavish someone and be thoughtful and show love, in and of itself, can be good. But operating with a perfectionist mentality can lead us into the trap of only noticing what needs improvement, what isn’t enough, rather than what is beautiful and what is more than enough. I can tell you right now— I don’t want to raise my daughter to think that anything about her world, herself, or her God isn’t ENOUGH.
The reality is that in a broken world with broken people, striving for perfection is dreaming the impossible dream. It can set us all up to fail. Requiring perfection will not help a marriage thrive. If anything, it will alienate an imperfect spouse. We have to come to a place where we are willing to be broken together. This doesn’t mean enabling or ignoring or becoming complacent. It just means allowing one another to be imperfect. Extending grace.
As my mentor, Christian Psychologist Dominic Herbst says, the key is to “look for progress, not perfection.”
The solution here is humility. It becomes so easy to extend grace and love to everyone else when we acknowledge our own imperfections, our own desperate need for grace. I’m not sure how in such a messy world, we still enter relationships expecting a fairy tale. The let-down feels worse than discovering there’s no Santa Claus. But there is a God and His name is Jesus. As we make the pursuit of Him our priority, the truth is things may never be perfect until we join Him in heaven.
In the meantime, He can handle our feeble attempts at earthy love and transform our ugly brokenness into a new sacrificial love… and that’s when we find it’s OK to be broken together.
Get some tissues first…. then give yourself a gratitude moment to listen to Broken Together by Casting Crowns.
All my love,
P.S. As my husband and I traversed some of the most painful areas of our brokenness, we sought out resources to help. By and far, the MOST POWERFUL tool was a resource from a ministry called Restoring Relationships. Read our story here.