We see perfectionism at work when Jesus stopped by to visit his friends, Mary and Martha. He came over to grill and chill. Mary sat at his feet, listening to every word. But, Martha couldn’t stop working. I can see her folding the napkins in perfect triangles, cleaning the glasses to ensure they had no spots, and ironing the tablecloth for the third time. Pastor Jesus was in the house.
The conversation in Martha’s head was something like, “If Jesus is going to be pleased with me, everything has to be flawless.” But Jesus wasn’t concerned with the presentation. He was there for relationship and friendship.
To help you determine if you’re plagued by perfectionism, check out these symptoms (again, check Seamonds helpful book, Healing for Damaged Emotions)…
“Ought To” Thinking.
The old inner critic speaks up whenever we do anything productive – from taking out the trash, working out, to serving in the nursery. “I ought to have done better. I ought to have done more.” You’re always off the mark. You stretch, strain, reach, but never quite get there.
I attended a large leadership conference years ago. They announced they were going to give away a free Disney cruise. They asked everyone who wanted to win to start dancing. Wendy and I only had two little tikes at the time. I felt a quiver in my liver. So I started dancing like it was 1999.
I ended up on stage with three others. It was time for the crowd to clap for the best dancer. I gave it all I had. I felt my calves and shoulders burning. But an older gentleman with missing teeth and no hair got the most applause and won the cruise. I thought, “I just made a fool of myself and got nothing for it. I ought to stay in my seat. I ought not dance like that again.” How discouraging to be so close but yet so far away.
Do you ever put yourself down, smack your forehead and say, “You dip…”
You build some bookshelves in your house. But all you see is the one crack in the corner where the joints don’t align perfectly. You calk it, but it still stares at you. People come over and comment on how great the shelves look, and you point to the cracked joint they didn’t know was there. Every time you see it, you say, “If I weren’t such a lazy slob, I wouldn’t have done a better job.”
Martha grew irritated at Mary as she sat on her blessed assurance drinking up the Savior’s words. She finally blew up. But notice Jesus’ response in Luke 10:41-42 – …”Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
The Greek word for anxious literally means “divided mind.” Has your mind ever been in six different places? Something is always falling apart. The moment you prop up that issue, another starts to crumble.
With the anxiety comes guilt and condemnation for not being able to do it all. There’s a dark cloud of divine disapproval over your life. You have a nagging sense that God is frowning on you.