Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Perfection is Not Real

Continue with me as we examine Ms. Perfection from chapter two of Lisa Whittle's Behind Those Eyes....

I have to say, after reading this chapter on Sunday, I thought "I have nothing to contribute." Once again, I'm hit with the reminder that I am no one's wife (legally) and I am no one's mother. Hit with those feelings of being the "odd one out" and the one who "doesn't have", I felt rebellious (maybe angry) over not having anything to contribute to this chapter. Don't get me wrong. It is not that I don't struggle with trying to do things perfectly. I do but not in the ways and areas described in the book...in the mother and wife roles and all that those roles entail.

Back up a little because before I read Ms. Perfection, I thought I'd have a lot in common with this chapter as I've always called myself a perfectionist.
I am the one who can literally see an extra space typed in a document or on the web.
I am the one who perfects the neat and orderly.
I am the one who does not like grass clippings in the flower beds (getting better).
I am the one who cleans up while cooking, even at the expense of burning the food (at times).

So with all that, I thought this chapter would just yell my name.

As I walked Monday night, I asked the Lord to give me something to share and to speak to me through the study questions, of which I had not done yet.

Speak, He did! It seems it is the questions that get my juices flowing from places truly unknown. So it is the result of those juices that I will share here.


I could only guess what makes us want people to see us as perfect. Maybe it is our desires to be perfect, to be praised, to be recognized by others. I think a lot of it is our own expectations of ourselves. We want to get it all done, not only to look good to others but to feel good in ourselves. Or it can be to hide our faults and failures, not only from others but from ourselves by denial. It can be painful to admit and reveal failure, pain, and sin. I do not know why another person's opinion matters to us but it does.

I want my nieces to feel I'm the best aunt.
I want my supervisors to feel I'm an outstanding employee and asset.
I want my friends to feel I'm open, available, and truly there for them.
I want my family to feel I love them the way they need.
I want my co-workers to feel I'm friendly and helpful.

I genuinely want these things and these people to feel and see these traits in me. God willing they will, most of the time. :-)

But in the end, it does not really matter what others think of me. I recall a conversation I had with a good friend several years ago. I told her I wish I could know exactly how others see me. She said "no you don't because the opinion of another person doesn't change your value." Amen? Yet, as humans, it still does matter. Plus, I still say I want to know because if there is an overriding negative characteristic that others see, I want to change it.

It is more important to recognize perfection is not possible so that we will stop trying to achieve it. To run after something impossible (perfection) means to fall into automatic disappointment. To expect perfection is to always expect failure. We will never measure up to perfection. It's really a waste of energy, time, and focus.

I love how Lisa said "But in her quest for perfection she has worked herself into a bad mood."
Oh how I remember those days. We have to quickly get groceries, be home by x time, cooking dinner will take x minutes. We'll have x time for yard work and then have to be at this place at this time. If any of that alters, what shall I do? Yes, it still happens but not as much because it's just me and less constraints. Living single can have that ONE benefit but I'd still trade it for my marriage ANY day.

Lisa asked us to "think of a woman in scripture who suffered from the perfection syndrome." Before she even suggested it, Martha immediately came to mind. No, Martha's attitude is not harmless. It's just the same when we are focused on a clean house, laundry, to do list, timelines, errands, and don't take the time for the real meaning in life - Christ, family, and others. What about the dad who pushes away little Johnny because of the work he brought home?. Or the mom busy with making dinner on time and not looking at little Sally's art project? That's what Martha was doing. So, yes, Martha's work, work, work attitude can be very harmful and depleting of those precious moments...like sitting at Jesus' feet. ahaa

Portraying perfectionism in any relationship will automatically set us up for unmet expectations. To portray perfection means to imply that perfection will come to pass. When it does not, disappointment arises and conflicts sprout.

Lisa spoke of her friend Tiffany who said "I have learned that peace comes from my relationship with Christ, not my weight, my clothing size, what car I drive, or how many church functions I attend." It is so true. I get caught up in my weight, my looks, approval of others, being liked by others, etc. and in reality none of that amounts to a hill of beans compared to my relationship with Christ. Those things can actually take away from my relationship with Christ. Being liked by another person will not give me peace because there's always yet another person who I'll want to like me. Loosing weight won't give me peace as I'll always want to be even skinnier. Having that perfect and easy hair do won't give me peace as I'll quickly tire of that too. However, we can never tire of Christ, His peace, and His presence. We can't get enough, can we? As long as we continue to strive in His character and grow in His love, our relationship with Him will never tire. It will always sustain. It will always fulfill. We have to trust Him to be our everything when we have nothing. I have to trust Him to be MY everything when I FEEL I have nothing.

In her challenge question, Lisa asked "is it more important for you to be seen as perfect in a certain area...or seen as real?" I absolutely do not want to be seen as perfect in any area. I feel perfection builds a wall. That is, when we see a woman as perfect, we cannot fully relate and connect with her. I want others to see me as real, reachable, and relatable. God cannot use perfect people nor can He use perfection in any area. Think about it, how does the perfect mom, perfect wife, perfect friend encourage another person? If a person is perfect, then she's never endured the struggles and trials so how can she relate and help those in the depths of turmoil and pain?

I want to be a woman with faults and weaknesses so that others can relate to me and reach out to me. I want to be that "As Seen on TV" product that when brought home, it really does work as seen on tv. (Kind of like the Ped Egg...I hear it is fabulous.)

"To all perfection I see a limit; but your commands are boundless." Psalm 119:96

Revealing the Imperfect,

Go to Lelia's to see other participants' blogs and comments.

24 comments:

Kristen said...

Paula,
How I just absolutely love reading your posts! I too had some of the same feelings when they spoke of the perfect mother as I am not a mother. Oh, but let me tell you... when I dreamed of becoming a mother... I wanted to be that perfect mother. I can remember feeling so "imperfect" since my body could not produce a child. After all wasn't that what I was created to do? (that's what I used to think). Then one day my Lord told me that He created me to do much more!

I thought of poor Martha too. Not that Martha's tasks were unimportant. We do have to prepare for guests and take care of the homes the Lord has provided us. She just lost sight of what was truly important...Jesus!


I too do not want to be seen as perfect. After all, when we are put on a pedastal don't we always fall off!

Thank you for sharing your heart!

By the way... you are right. One of these days we will have to meet up! We live to close not too!!! Hope all is going well with you... been lifting you up in prayer!
K

Connie said...

I loved seeing this chapter through your eyes. Thanks for sharing. Connie

Karen said...

Paula,

Your post is right on! Thank you for sharing your heart! In you paragraph on not wanting (to get caught up in your weight, have the perfect hairdo etc.) because you won't have peace, I kept thinking "satisfaction." We never find satisfaction. We are always searching for that unattainable thing... that prize... that peace. Yet God is sufficient.

2 Corinthians 12:9: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

You are becoming very wise. Be blessed!

- Karen

2nd Cup of Coffee said...

Paula, at some point, I need to read this book. Thanks for sharing your viewpoint.

andi said...

This really ministered to me tonight...I needed to read every bit that you wrote! Thanks for your words. They moved me greatly. You have lifted my soul!

Laura said...

Paula,
you are such a sweetie. I can see you, struggling with these issues, asking God to speak to you. He had a lot to say, didn't He? I don't think you are the only one who feels a little left out on these issues, but your spiritual maturity and teachable heart shines through. I'm so glad you are sharing this study with us. I always love to read your thoughts.
Hugs, Laura

Paula said...

Excellent post, just excellent! You have covered many issues that also spoke to me while reading the chapter.

One in particular that I thought of this morning when reading Lelia's post is how I always used to have perfect hair. Not one hair could be out of place. Oh how that wanting for perfection robbed me of so much enjoyment of my mornings, my day, my evening, and so on. I, luckily, now have a super duper haircut that accommodates my hair's needs and not mine, so all that is in the past, hehe.

God only uses 'cracked pots' to achieve His glory, not perfect porcelain specimens that can't be touched for fear of breaking. He uses the imperfect so that His perfect will shine through. Love In Him, Paula :-) xo

Cheryl said...

Paula,

Great job! I can relate on many levels to the things you shared!

Thanks for sharing. I needed it.

Cheryl

Natalie said...

Paula, thanks for sharing your thoughts today. It really got me thinking.

Carol said...

My dear friend Paula,

This post spoke to my heart. I too had a rough time with this chapter. I had so much flow through me from the past and present, that it was too much for one post.

I love how you remind us that God can't use perfect people, that is so true. It seems in our most broken times he uses us the most and teaches us the most. Or maybe we are just more able to hear him when we are feeling more broken.

I would love to sit and talk with you I think we share so much in common. For now we'll settle for cyberspace.

Hugs,
Carol

Tonya said...

Paula,

Don't worry about joining in on that silly little game. I normally DO NOT participate but for whatever reason I did this time. I was just HAPPY to hear from you!

Oh, and I've NOT forgotten to write you back... I just haven't taken the time to do it. I am happy to say that things seem to be MUCH BETTER. I KNOW my "mini-depression" sure is. GOD has really BLESSED us recently with some joyous days!

Take care, my friend!
LOVE YOU!!

Darlene said...

Thank you for your sweet comment on my blog. Your blog is just beautiful. The colors and pictures point to God!

I enjoyed reading your post and your perspective. We must reveal the imperfect, and be transparent. God works through the weak; The imperfect. Fake is just not... well, truth. And perfectionism is idolatry.

Glad to be on this journey with you!
Darlene

PS. Yes. Caleb got "for Pete" from me! I was exasperated with him one day, and I huffed "for Pete's sake" at him in my impatience. He looked at me, and had a sweet smile on his face, and he said, "For Pete, mommy, for pete."

Tammy R said...

Reading your post revealed so much truth. I loved how you called perfection what it is...untenable.

I'm learning God doesn't want us perfect,He just wants us.

HIS Daughter said...

Hi My Sweetpea,

I think this is beautiful. I remember always, always needing to feel I was the most loved, the best whatever, the cutest whoever in someone's mind. If I didn't, I was angry and miserable and had a pity party.

GOD revealed to me (after HE captured me in HIS love and grace) that I thought I didn't exist if someone else didn't validate me. I became invisible unless someone said I was worthy or their best.

I am now a very flawed, but real daughter of a KING and HE loves me and works to bring me to HIS perfection which is nothing I can do myself and nothing that looks like what anybody in the "world" would care for. But it makes me alive - with HIM and for HIM.

You keep being real. You are HIS real child and HE will teach all HIS daughters.

Love and prayers,
Teri

tiggerdaisy said...

Great post! You took me to a different perspective of being Ms/Miss/Mrs. Perfect! Thanks for sharing this thought provoking post!

Prayers and blessings,
Rebecca

Amy said...

"There is a kind of beauty in imperfection." ~Conrad Hall

Amen?:)

Like you, I never want to be thought of as perfect (not a problem I suffer with often, obviously), because it is just too much pressure to keep that up. Much like movie and television stars that the media and viewers place on a pedestal, there is no where to go but down.;)

Beautiful thoughts, Paula!
God Bless,
Amy:)

Pamela (MrsJoeB) said...

Paula-when I signed on to your post my first thoughts were "here is a women who has been so real"! You are not afraid to be transparent in your joy or in your pain. I find you very real and I find you to be such a blessing!
Keep clinging to Him!

In His Graces~Pamela

Runner Mom said...

Paula! Hey, girlfriend! Great insight! I loved this! I think just reading the comments of the other girls sums up what I could say!
Loving you and keeping you in my prayers!
Susan

Naomi said...

Hello Paula! This is such a relatable post, indicating a totally relatable lady, someone who God can rely on to use for His works. This post added volumes to the study for me... thank you...

skoots1mom said...

thanks for coming by
that's one of my angel trumpet blooms
a friend gave me this little plant when it was about 10 inches tall and it has grown this big and beautiful just since May

this is a shot where I held my camera down under the trumpet flower and shot up to the sky...I love it, too!

Pat's Tuesday said...

I was telling a friend the other day that I love this bible study and reading everyone elses comments because god contiuned ro reaveal things that I need to hear and grasp through others post. That is what he has done with yours I know I am more Martha than I am Mary and your comment 'Martha's attitude is not harmless. It's just the same when we are focused on a clean house, laundry, to do list, timelines, errands, and don't take the time for the real meaning in life - Christ, family, and others' I know that I get so caught up in doing and he has been dealing with me on that for the last couple of months so I am trying to be still more and let him handle things instead of jumping in. I am glad you are doing this study and I look forward to reading future post.

Amy L Brooke said...

Wow. Thanks for being so open and real. I'm no one's mom or wife either and that is hard. My mom is gone and my dad was abusive so I no longer have contact with him. So, I don't even feel like a daughter. Because of my relationship with my father, my relationship with my sisters I almost feel like I'm not even a sister.

So, thanks for voicing what I so often feel.

Where in IN are you? I use to live in Bloomington and staffed the InterVarsity chapter at IU.

Lisa said...

Paula,
I value your thoughts and love how you desire to fully "go there," even when the thoughts in a chapter get tough. You are a thinker, and I appreciate that. And incidentally, I can relate! :)

Please know that when I wrote this chapter I had the wife, the mom, the single woman, the grandmother...you...me...in mind. I felt as though I had to address the "roles" Ms. Perfection plays, and often that is in marriage and motherhood. But the perfect package could be anyone. She is all of us, in some ways. That's why Tiffany's story was such a powerful one. I knew it would resonate with women everywhere. We have all been that woman who wants to be seen as doing things perfect and right and really, we impose such high (impossible, really) standards on ourselves. We are our own toughest critic, aren't we?

I love your heart. Please know that I prayed for you by name tonight.

Lisa :)

Karyn said...

Thanks for posting this. It's a great reminder for all Christians who are living out a genuine faith. Karyn www.christiancupid.com/blog