Pretty. Popular. Perfect. That’s what I wanted to be as a child. I longed for everyone to like me and agree with me and admire me and I thought if I was perfect that would happen, because I believed the lie that I had to be perfect to deserve love. I was obedient (mostly). I tried to be considerate and kind to people (mostly). I tried to be a good friend. I put lots of effort into my schoolwork. And for a little while I was best friends and co-leader of the grade one girls.
Then Julia came. She was pretty and really nice, good at school and fun to be with. In no time my best friend was not my best friend anymore. By grade four I was completely excised from the group. “We don’t want you to hang around us anymore,” was something I would hear not once, but three times during my school years. What was going wrong?
Not Perfect Enough?
Being considerate, good and smart didn’t seem to be working for me. Maybe if I was pretty? Or skinny? Or sporty? Or funny? At last I came to the conclusion that I just wasn’t perfect enough and I began to resent myself for my inadequacies and weaknesses, many of which I seemed to be able to do little about.
I was intelligent, talented, a high achiever – but I had very low self-esteem. If I was only different, people would like me! I was sure. But I couldn’t be different. I couldn’t dumb myself down. I couldn’t compromise my morals. I couldn’t put less effort into my homework and assignments. I couldn’t bear to lose the esteem of the adults in my life as well!
When my husband and my own children didn’t seem to like me either that was it – I thought I must be unlovable. Despite my efforts, I just wasn’t good enough.
The Only Perfect Person
I thought if I was perfect then people would love me, listen to me, appreciate me, speak highly of me, and copy me. Then one day it hit me – what happened to the only perfect person to ever walk this earth? He was reviled, spat upon, whipped, rejected, abandoned, insulted and left to die in agony. What about other really admirable people like Thomas More, Maximillian Kolbe, Ghandi or Mother Teresa? Many of them were mocked, hated or killed. Even Mother Teresa was ignored by many.
A new truth dawned on me: Even if I WAS perfect, I would STILL be misunderstood, disliked and rejected sometimes. Ugh! Another piece of that wall was ripped away from my heart so it could be patched up properly – the surgery was difficult, and the rehab program is also pretty tough. But it is worth it!
At the same time it also dawned on me that I had the wrong idea about what perfection actually WAS. It was not being extremely talented at everything. It was not pleasing everybody all of the time. It was not an A+. It was not having an immaculate house. It was not being on time for everything. It was not being physically beautiful. It was not having everyone agree with me. It was not having a picture perfect family who never argued or hurt each other. It was not about being right about everything. It was not about having everything ‘just so’.
No, what I needed to strive for perfection in was MERCY and COMPASSION! I needed to direct my efforts towards being a forgiving, non-judgmental person and using my words to encourage and build up rather than to correct. To focus on the effort my kids put in rather than the result. To have merciful eyes that remembered that they were young and inexperienced, and had their own feelings and hurts that they were struggling with.
My priorities had to change! Making the bed when I got up was less important than morning hugs. Smiling at my husband when he came home was more important than having dinner ready precisely on time. Playing with my kids was more important than ticking off everything on my to-do list. I KNOW these things, but practicing them is still a struggle.
I can finally see now, how for so many years my efforts were directed in the wrong place – was I an annoying ‘know-it-all’? Maybe. Was having everything ‘just so’ driving those around me nuts? Maybe. Sigh. I also needed to face my own selfishness and see how many times I was inconsiderate when I thought I was such a considerate person!
Being perfect is now both harder and easier. Easier, because it no longer depends on anyone else, and harder – because it no longer depends on anyone else! The ball is squarely in my court. Thank God the Holy Spirit is my doubles partner!
More Helpful Truth Coaches
The aim of being perfect is not to please everyone all of the time, but to have the compassionate heart of God.
Not everyone has to like me. Not everyone has to agree with me.
I am loved for who I am, not how much I get right.
I don’t have to have it my way to feel safe and happy.
Christ has already lived my life perfectly. I don’t need to punish others for not living up to my expectations.
Even if I was perfect, I would still be judged, rejected and not liked sometimes.