This week in Chapter 8 of A Confident Heart, we’ve been talking about the comparison trap and learning discovering that something special we each have to offer! One thing that is absolutely essential is acceptance. God wants us to accept who we are as well as the gifts, personalities, idiosyncrasies and life experiences we’ve been given so we can embrace and become the woman HE created us to be. When we accept ourselves and the blessing God speaks over our life - then we discover what we have to give – and the joy that comes with it!
Today I have a special guest, Kay Warren, wife of Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. In her new book, “Choose Joy” Kay shares the path to experiencing soul-satisfying joy no matter what you’re going through. She says, “Joy is deeper than happiness, lasts longer than excitement, and is more satisfying than pleasure and thrills. Joy is richer. Fuller. And it’s far more accessible than you’ve thought possible.”
From Choose Joy, chapter 7: Practice Acceptance
I am a perfectionist. It’s not something I’m proud of, but I have jokingly said that I am a card-carrying member of the Perfectionists Club of America. I expect perfection from myself and others, and from the world I live in—which means I’m always setting myself up for disappointment.
I want my hair to look just right—and yet it never curls the same way twice. I precisely follow the manufacturer’s directions for washing a new shirt, and it shrinks the first time I wash it. I go to church, and there’s a typo in the song lyrics on the screen. And I get really upset because things are not, well, perfect.
I’ve been known to ask out loud, “Why is perfection so difficult?” Is it any wonder I get a few raised eyebrows in response? The answer to my question is simple. Perfection is not difficult. It’s impossible. It’s impossible because of what happened in Genesis 2. When Adam and Eve decided to eat the fruit off that tree so they could be like God, they unleashed a curse on our world. The world doesn’t understand it. They call it Murphy’s Law: If anything can go wrong, it will. They think it’s cute and clever, but it’s really Genesis 2 in action.
Perfectionism has its roots firmly planted not only in Genesis 2 but also in the environment we grew up in. Often a hard-to-please parent, family member, or highly respected teacher or coach can seriously damage our developing sense of self, causing us to carry around their “voice” in our heads as an inner critic.
How about you? Does your desire for perfection significantly interfere with your job or your ability to achieve your goals? Does it get in the way of developing deep relationships? Perfectionism’s reach extends to eating disorders and anxiety disorders. It’s nasty. Have you discovered that chasing after perfection robs you of joy and peace?
Richard Carlson writes, “I’ve yet to meet an absolute perfectionist whose life was filled with inner peace. The need for perfection and the desire for inner tranquility conflict with each other.”
What a relief it was for me to realize a few years ago that my desire for perfection in and of itself is not wrong. We were made for it! We were made for perfect bodies. We were made for perfect relationships. We were made for perfect minds. We were made to live forever. Something deep inside us calls out for what was lost, so we keep reaching for it, keep trying to find that perfection our souls long for.
So it’s not wrong to long for perfection; it’s just wrong to expect it on earth. It isn’t found here. There truly is something wrong with everything. That’s not just me, an Eeyore, talking. It’s recognizing the fact that we live under the curse. Perfection will only come when God creates the new heaven and the new earth and paradise is restored. Paradise was lost in Genesis 2. But in Revelation 21 it is restored. When that prophecy is fulfilled, all we long for will be restored to us. God tells us he will “wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain. . . . ‘I am making everything new!’” (Rev. 21:4–5).
That means no more living under the curse. It means hair that curls properly every time. Song lyrics with no typos. Conversations with no misunderstandings. It means no more relationships that go sour. No more mental illness. No more bodies that don’t work right. No more cancer. Everything that has been broken will be restored. That’s a reason for joy.
The antidote to perfectionism is acceptance—acceptance of our earthly imperfections because we are focused on the day when imperfection will be no more. If I try to experience perfection here on earth, I will come up short every time. If I keep looking for perfection within myself, I will kill the joy in me. You and I need to fire our inner critic!
When I accept myself as I am instead of who I wish I was, when I accept those around me as they are, not as I wish they were, when I accept the world as it is, not as I wish it was, my joy in today as well as my hope for tomorrow can grow.
Thank you so much Kay for giving us the antidote to perfectionism. I know I need to fire my inner critic for sure! If you’d like to find out more about Kay, be sure visit her website. Also, tomorrow my friend Holly Gerth is sharing another excerpt from Kay’s book so be sure to hop on over to read more from “Choose Joy” on Friday.
Win a copy: Share your thoughts about today’s post and you’ll be entered to win a copy of Kay’s book, Choose Joy. We’re giving away two copies!