Thursday, January 31, 2019

Confession of a Recovering Perfectionist

This post is being written and shared to hopefully help anyone who may have struggled with perfectionism, and or, being a Father-pleaser. I am a Hospice Chaplain and every day I listen to dying persons share their life stories. Some share the positive moments that have carried them throughout their life and others relate the hurtful and negative experiences that have wounded them. The majority of these wounds are still painful, even as these persons are facing their own death. As a result of being an active listener, I, in turn, do my own life review on a regular basis, almost daily! I rehearse my own positive and negative experiences that I know have helped to shape who I am today.

Until about twenty years ago I was a certified perfectionist. This definition was so true of me: a person's striving for flawlessness and setting high-performance standards, accompanied by critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others' evaluations. I expected things to be a certain standard and I was disappointed when it fell short. I began to change slowly as I started accepting the truth that everyone and every situation is different, with different expectations and outcomes. I learned that I was not always right or that my opinions were the only way. I admit that I still have a measure of it but I purposely fight the desire to view life from a perfectionist mindset.

Another personality trait I have struggled with throughout much of my life has been being a Father-pleaser. From my earliest memory, I wanted to please my natural father. I desperately desired to please him and for him to be proud of me. I desired to not make mistakes and to have Daddy's approval. The reality is that I made many mistakes and often disappointed him. My problem is that I tried to earn his approval.

How often this is true of our relationship with our Heavenly Father. Our efforts to please God and to earn His approval describe a frustrating and defeating lifestyle. Nothing that we can do will ever prove adequate to obtain God's acceptance and pleasure with us. These efforts will always fall short of perfection. I am so glad I am learning each day that I can never please God by what I do or don't do but that He loves and accepts me just because God loves me. God's love is unconditional!

When we can learn to accept ourselves as recipients of this amazing grace of our Heavenly Father then we can begin to live in new freedom. We recognize that even with our imperfections God continues to love us. We are free to please Him from grateful hearts. Our response to His graciousness is life-changing. Even when we make mistakes God continues to love us. I attempt to convey this truth with dying patients, in hopes that this revelation will free them from feelings of guilt and self-condemnation. How much more can each of us walk each day in this blessing! 

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