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Archive for the ‘Perfectionism’ Category

Three reasons why panic attacks happen

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

There is more to look at and work on than just “waiting for the panic attacks to go away.” Usually, in panic disorder, there are significant issues that need to be faced.

First, there can be underlying isolation. If someone is significantly isolated inside, panic comes when this isolation and aloneness are close to being felt.

Secondly, there can be issues around boundaries and freedom. These are the most common in my experience.

Panic attacks usually have some dynamic involved when a person feels powerless in some significant area of life, especially significant relationships. He/She feels like their choices are controlled by someone else or by guilt, and freedom is limited. So, at various times he/she feels the panic that comes from being powerless. Good boundary and assertiveness work can help this dynamic dramatically.

Thirdly, there are often patterns of perfectionistic or “all or nothing thinking.”

Someone interprets his performance or experience in extreme forms, and severe anxiety accompanies that process. He has to learn to look at his thinking patterns and change them. And then there are often autonomy fears and fears associated with independence and adulthood. Sometimes family-of-origin issues need to be examined to get past those dynamics.

With the combination of good medical advice and good counseling, I have all the hope in the world that panic attacks can be helped. I have seen it happen successfully over and over again.

BEING PERFECT OR — FULLY FUNCTIONAL

by Jan Johnson

Have you been bothered by that verse: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48)? 

Many people are.

Some think it means we can or should drive ourselves with perfectionism. But perfectionism doesn’t lead to perfection—only to shame, as some of you have heard me say.  Others just give up and decide transformation is for someone else. Still others think that Jesus said things that just don’t make sense.

What if “perfect” means “fully functional”? 

The word for “perfect” there and elsewhere is telios, which means complete or mature.  It’s the word Jesus used on the cross in “It is FINISHED”  (looser translation:  we did it!).  Lately, Dallas Willard has taken to substituting “perfect” in these verses with “fully functional.”  Be fully functional, as your heavenly Father is fully functional.

So what does fully functional look like? 

The above verse is the summary statement from the “love your enemies” section of the Sermon on the Mount.  So to be fully functional is to be kind instead of crabby, to help other people out instead of wondering what’s wrong with them. To love difficult people means I’m fully functional, not taking the time and emotional energy to be offended by them or to judge them in my mind.

What a relief!

For days I’ve been connecting dots among the “perfect” verses and it turns out others relate to loving others as well. For example, several of the “perfect” verses occur in James, one of which describes the fully functional law (1:25), which a few verses later he calls the royal law and quotes Jesus’ great commandment (and OT law) and to love others the way we love ourselves.  (Don’t tell me you don’t love yourself;  if you’ve managed to feed and dress yourself in the last few days you’ve loved—or done what’s best for—yourself.)  To be fully functional is to love others as well as I treat myself.

Another dot:  When Jesus talks to the rich young ruler who obeyed all the laws, Jesus advises him that if he would be fully functional (perfect), he would sell all he had and give it to the poor:  radical love for others  (Matt 19:21).

Full functionality (maturity and completion) then seems to relate to moving away from self-absorption and thinking more about what others are going through. When I resent what you say to me or I choose to ignore you (not loving you), I’m not functioning with all of myself.  In fact, I begin to behave rather dysfunctionally:  self-pity, know-it-all, apathetic.  The heavenly Father is perfect in how God loves us fully. God invites me into that love and also invites me to ponder how I might love others a little more today than yesterday. Then I become a whole new me, one that is fully functional, able to stop making everything about me and willing to think about you with more generosity, mercy, and kindness.

With that in mind, Jesus’ invitation to be fully functional sounds like a really good idea.

The Secret to a Lasting Marriage: Embrace Imperfection

SOURCE:  Deb Graham

When I was a little girl, my mom liked to make breakfast food for dinner every now and then. And I remember one night in particular when she had made breakfast after a long, hard day at work.

On that evening so long ago, my mom placed a plate of eggs, sausage, and extremely burned toast in front of my dad. I remember waiting to see if anyone noticed! Yet all my dad did was reach for his toast, smile at my mom, and ask me how my day was at school.

I don’t remember what I told him that night, but I do remember watching him smear butter and jelly on that toast and eat every bite! When I got up from the table that evening, I remember hearing my mom apologize to my dad for burning the toast. And I’ll never forget what he said: “Baby, I love burned toast.”

Later that night, I went to kiss Daddy good night and I asked him if he really liked his toast burned. He wrapped me in his arms and said, “Debbie, your momma put in a hard day at work today and she’s real tired. And besides-a little burnt toast never hurt anyone!”

In bed that night, I thought about that scene at dinner and the kindness my daddy showed my mom. To this day, it’s a cherished memory from my childhood that I’ll never forget. And it’s one that came to mind just recently when Jack and I sat down to eat dinner.

I had arrived home, late as usual, and decided we would have breakfast food for dinner. Some things never change, I suppose!

To my amazement, I found the ingredients I needed, and quickly began to cook eggs, turkey sausage, and buttered toast. Thinking I had things under control, I glanced through the mail for the day. It was only a few minutes later that I remembered that I had forgotten to take the toast out of the oven!

Now, had it been any other day — and had we had more than two pieces of bread in the entire house — I would have started all over. But it had been one of those days and I had just used up the last two pieces of bread. So burnt toast it was!

As I set the plate down in front of Jack, I waited for a comment about the toast. But all I got was a “Thank you!” I watched as he ate bite by bite, all the time waiting for some comment about the toast. But instead, all Jack said was, “Babe, this is great. Thanks for cooking tonight. I know you had a hard day.”

As I took a bite of my charred toast that night, I thought about my mom and dad, how burnt toast hadn’t been a deal-breaker for them. And I quietly thanked God for giving me a marriage where burnt toast wasn’t a deal-breaker either!

You know, life is full of imperfect things-and imperfect people. I’m not the best housekeeper or cook. And you might be surprised to find out that Jack isn’t the perfect husband! He likes to play his music too loud, he will always find a way to avoid yard work, and he watches far too many sports. Believe it or not, watching “Golf Academy” is not my idea of a great night at home!

But somehow in the past 37 years Jack and I have learned to accept the imperfections in each other. Over time, we have stopped trying to make each other in our own mold and have learned to celebrate our differences. You might say that we’ve learned to love each other for who we really are!

For example, I like to take my time, I’m a perfectionist, and I’m even-tempered. I tend to work too much and sleep too little. Jack, on the other hand, is disciplined, studious, an early riser, and is a marketer’s dream consumer. I count pennies and Jack could care less! Where he is strong, I am weak, and vice versa.

And while you might say that Jack and I are opposites, we’re also very much alike. I can look at him and tell you what he’s thinking. I can predict his actions before he finalizes his plans. On the other hand, he knows whether I’m troubled or not the moment I enter a room.

We share the same goals. We love the same things. And we are still best friends. We’ve traveled through many valleys and enjoyed many mountaintops. And yet, at the same time, Jack and I must work every minute of every day to make this thing called “marriage” work!

What I’ve learned over the years is that learning to accept each other’s faults – and choosing to celebrate each other’s differences – is the one of the most important keys to creating a healthy, growing, and lasting marriage relationship.

And that’s my prayer for you today. That you will learn to take the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of your married life and lay them at the feet of Jesus. Because in the end, He’s the only One who will be able to give you a marriage where burnt toast isn’t a deal-breaker!

15 Signs That You May Be A Perfectionist (and 20 Ways to Overcome Perfectionism)

SOURCE:  Rachel Fintzy Woods, M.A., LMFT

When your colleagues at work compliment you on a talk you just gave, do you dismiss their remarks and berate yourself for the one slide you forgot to include in your Powerpoint presentation?

If your husband tells you how pretty you look, do you counter with a comment like, “I really should lose five pounds”?

Do you have a critical voice in your head that constantly takes you or other people down a notch?

Signs that you may be a perfectionist:

  1. You are painfully aware and extremely critical of mistakes and perceived inadequacies. You have trouble beginning projects. You procrastinate a lot.
  2. You strive to be the best in all your endeavors, even in areas that don’t really interest you.
  3. You spend an excessive amount of time on projects, double-checking and revising your work. You obsess over minor details.
  4. You have trouble completing projects. You quit projects prematurely, often out of frustration at the process not being easy or your not being an instant natural at the task.
  5. You have difficulty making decisions. Sometimes even ordering from a menu or deciding what outfit to wear can be challenging for you.
  6. You think in all-or-nothing or black-and-white terms. For you, there is no middle ground. You use the words “should,” “have to,” and “must” a lot.
  7. You make unrealistic demands of yourself or other people, and your interpersonal relationships are often tense (or end) as a result.
  8. You suffer from social anxiety or social phobia.
  9. You avoid trying new things, for fear that you won’t excel at them or will make a mistake.
  10. You rarely feel “good enough.” You struggle with low self-esteem.
  11. You are prone to feelings of shame, depression, or anxiety.
  12. You often experience a feeling of emptiness.
  13. You suffer from stress-related physical conditions.
  14. You struggle with compulsive overeating, restrictive eating, other eating disorders, or body dysmorphic disorder.
  15. You struggle with alcohol or other substance use.

Saying ‘yes’ to any of these items is not necessarily an indication that you are a perfectionist – however, endorsing more than a few of the items may indicate that perfectionism is an issue for you.

Perfectionism can be defined as placing undue pressure on oneself and others to meet impeccable standards and being hyper-critical of mistakes. Where it is healthy to strive for excellence, perfectionism often leads to depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, eating disorders, substance abuse, self-harm, problems at work, and procrastination.

As author Brene Brown puts it, “When perfectionism is driving, shame is riding shotgun, and fear is that annoying backseat driver.”

When we succumb to perfectionism, we fight a losing battle, because we can never be good enough, simply because we are human and thus imperfect. This internal war causes tremendous stress. In fact, many of the issues that motivate us to seek psychotherapy involve some variety of perfectionism. We perceive ourselves as not sufficiently nice, thin, smart, attractive, interesting, intelligent, capable – the list goes on and on. So, we develop the belief that “if only” we had this, that, or the other thing, we’d be happy – and all the while we are chasing a mirage.

Being a perfectionist is an exhausting way to live, in which we are focused on the unreachable goal rather than paying attention to and appreciating the journey.

There are many reasons for perfectionism, some rooted in a traumatic childhood in which we felt unsafe, helpless, or unable to cope with life – and, wait, wouldn’t that be all of us to some extent, given our extremely vulnerable state as small children?

We could also have had a perfectionistic parent, who we could never please. If we received a score of 98% on a school exam, our parent questioned us about the 2% we got wrong. We might have adopted this perfectionistic approach to life ourselves.

Whatever the case, perfectionism is dangerous.

The sooner we accept that being called a perfectionist is not a compliment but a warning, the sooner we can take steps to free ourselves from perfectionism:

  1. Count the cost. Make a list of the pros and cons of your perfectionism. How has it helped or hurt you, in the short and long run? How have your career, relationships, physical, emotional, and mental health, spiritual life, finances been affected?
  2. Relinquish the all-or-nothing mindset. You cannot do everything with 100% accuracy. This is simply impossible. Be okay with being human and the inevitable learning curve involved in any project. Allow yourself to do thing imperfectly and incompletely.
  3. In fact, try being imperfect on purpose. Consider the concept that humility attracts.
  4. Focus on the big picture. Stop obsessing over unimportant details. Do not get lost in the minutiae.
  5. Give yourself credit for your accomplishments, large and small, rather than focusing on what you did not achieve.
  6. When it comes to feelings of “not having enough” (such as with consumerism), ask yourself if you really need something and what value it would add to your life. Chances are that you do not need another toy just because the ubiquitous ads tell you that you need it or because your friend or colleague has it.
  7. Set your priorities. It’s not realistic to have 20 items at the top of your daily to-do list. Pick one to three things on which to focus your energy, and devote a reasonable amount of time to each item.
  8. Give yourself a reality check. Ask yourself, “How important is this, really? How much will this matter to me in a week? A month? A year?”
  9. Consider the worst-case scenario and how you would deal with this. Would the world really end if you wore two mismatched socks? If you forgot a friend’s name? If you gained five pounds?
  10. Focus on the process, not the result. Adopt a curious, courageous, and kind attitude, appreciating every step of your journey, even the unpleasant ones, as opportunities to learn and grow.
  11. Practice radical self-acceptance. Appreciate yourself, warts and all, and accept life on life’s terms. You cannot control everyone and everything.
  12. Replace your self-doubt with self-respect, self-love, and self-compassion. Getting to know your real self, as opposed to an idealized image you wish to portray to the world and yourself, is the antidote to perfectionism.
  13. Allow yourself to experience all of your feelings. Perfectionism demands that we feel certain emotions and not other emotions. What often happens in this scenario is that we end up being estranged from all of our emotions, as it’s almost impossible to pick and choose what we’re going to feel. The healthier choice is to bear compassionate witness to the full gamut of your emotions, without judgment.
  14. Make healthy relationships a priority. Let other people know your true, magnificently imperfect self. This is the only way to develop authentic relationships.
  15. Take good care of your body, mind, and spirit. The basics: good nutrition, regular exercise, sufficient sleep, relaxation, fun, intellectually challenging projects, an active social life, meditation, and connection with a higher (i.e., bigger than you) purpose.
  16. Don’t overthink things. Just dive in there. You can revise later, or try another one of the options on your list.
  17. Remove the words “should,” “should have,” “must,” “have to,” and “if only” from your vocabulary, and replace them with “want to,” “choose to,” “prefer,” and “now I’ll…” Let go of the past, which you cannot control. Focus on now and your next step.
  18. Understand that while your perfectionism and associated wish to control your feelings and environment may have developed from childhood attempts to deal with anxiety (it’s scary being a helpless child), you are older now and can employ other more-effective methods of coping.
  19. Don’t let fear dictate your behavior. You can feel uncomfortable and take action all the same. Your inevitable mistakes don’t define you. Done is better than perfect.
  20. Determine your most important values and life purpose, and let these guide how you allocate your time, energy, and resources. Use these ideals as guidelines, not absolutes, to avoid perfectionism in this area. Although you may continue to keep to-do lists, refrain from letting your lists (and thus your achievements) determine your self-worth and direction.

We are all human.

None of us is all good or all bad. And this is okay. As you shed the perfectionism habit and embrace being the glorious person who you really are, you’re likely to be a lot more relaxed, happier, easier to be around, healthier, and, yes, more productive.

You Need to Accept the Reality of Failure

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

”There is no one on earth who does what is right all the time and never makes a mistake” (Ecclesiastes 7:20 GNT).

In America, failure is almost the unpardonable sin. We idolize success.

But that kind of pressure creates major stress on people. The fear of failure has many different faces. It can cause you to be indecisive, a workaholic, and a perfectionist who clings to safety. Because we’re afraid to fail, we shun all kinds of risks.

For many of us, that fear of failure has an iron grip on our hearts. Even some of the best and the brightest people in the world are the most impacted by a fear of failure.

That’s why I urge you to internalize this one simple message: We’ve all made mistakes. It’s not just a “you problem”; it’s a human problem. The Bible says, “There is no one on earth who does what is right all the time and never makes a mistake” (Ecclesiastes 7:20 GNT).

Not only have you made mistakes in the past, but you’ll also make more in the future. I guarantee it. Even playing it safe and refusing to take risks is a mistake. As a pastor, I hear people ask all the time, “What if I fail?” I want to ask them, “What do you mean ‘if?'”

You’ve already failed many, many times in life. So have I. You’re a failure in some area of your life right now. And you’ll fail a lot more in the future.

Even superstars stumble. The greatest professional basketball players only sink half their shots. The best professional baseball players will get out two out of every three at-bats. Failure is normal.

You’ll never overcome your fear of failure until you fully accept the reality that you’re not perfect.

The Bible says there is only one failure you need to fear: “Be careful that no one fails to receive God’s grace” (Hebrews 12:15 NCV).

You need grace. We all do!

Only when we let go of the fear of failure will it let go of its maddening grip on our lives. Once that happens, we can fully accept the grace of God

Perfectionism is Ruining Your Life

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud/Dr. John Townsend

One of the biggest mistakes a person can make is to become preoccupied with perfection. That’s different from envisioning perfection as a goal.

It’s about whether perfection is a goal, or something that you demand. Believing that you can realistically attain perfection is no different than wandering through the desert, ever-thirsty, toward a mirage that only recedes toward the horizon. A lot of people obsess over perfection. This obsession is a massive waste of time and energy.

Perfectionism is a distraction, a justification for procrastination, an excuse for never getting anything done. When perfectionism is about one’s own striving, it is hostility aimed inward. When it is aimed at others, it is a cold and compassionless hostility toward the world. Perfectionism is a refusal to accept reality, and it is rooted in fear. To the perfectionist, nothing will ever be good enough.

For many people, perfectionism originates in childhood, with parental pressure to achieve. This can be motivated by a lot of things, from parents measuring their own status by the achievements of their children, to an egotistical desire to imprint their child with capabilities they wish they had themselves. Whatever the cause, perfectionism often has an opposite effect from what these parents would hope for their children to develop if they want them to become high achievers. Perfectionists are much less likely to take risks because they are afraid of failing, and the willingness to take risks, along with the adaptability to learn from one’s mistakes, are two essential characteristics of high achievers.

Perfectionists fail to accept that the world, and all of the people in it, are flawed. Understanding that concept is something that can fuel compassion, foster empathy, and help you develop healthy structures for continuously improving your own performance.

It’s fair to say that doing something the wrong way, whether at work or in a relationship, feels bad. By contrast, doing something the right way feels good. This is a core concept underlying the self-regulating systems of internal rewards that drive motivation. With a healthy, growth-oriented mindset, navigating these pathways will help us to increase our capacities in the most important areas of our lives.

In order to put that idea to use, we must be willing to make mistakes along the way. Sometimes we will not do things the right way. Someone who accepts that reality would understand that the mistakes we make are learning opportunities, glean what lessons they can from their experiences, and work on improving. The perfectionist fights reality. They do not want the bad feelings that come along with making mistakes. They drastically overestimate the pain that will be caused by those bad feelings. They become paralyzed. They do not grow.

Perfectionism is an incapacitating force. It stops us from connecting with the real, but it also stops us from connecting with others. The inward perfectionist will never feel good enough to be loved or appreciated, the outward perfectionist will always find the flaws in the details, unable to find redeeming virtues that are plainly visible to the rest of us.

Habits are hard to break, but the mechanics of overcoming perfectionism are easy to put into practice. All you have to do is be willing to make a lot of mistakes. Understand that that’s what we’re all doing all the time, continuously messing up, learning, and doing better.

There is a relevant passage from a book called Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. The scene takes place at a tennis academy. It’s a conversation between two players, one of whom is suffering from debilitating perfectionism:

“Suppose I were to give you a key ring with a hundred keys, and I were to tell you that one of those keys will unlock it, and this door we’re imagining opening in onto all you want to be, as a player. How many of the keys would you be willing to try?”

“Well, I’d try every darn one,” Rader tells Lyle.

“Then you are willing to make mistakes, you see. You are saying you will accept 99% error. The paralyzed perfectionist you say you are would stand there before that door. Jingling the keys. Afraid to try the first key.”

Profile of a workaholic

SOURCE:  Ray Pritchard/CareLeader

Workaholics.

You’ve got them in your church, and at times, you can relate to them yourself.

A workaholic is a compulsive worker: he chooses to work a lot, think about work, and then work even more.

What does the Bible say to workaholics?

Ecclesiastes 6:7–8 says, “All a man’s labor is for his mouth and yet the appetite is not satisfied. For what advantage does the wise man have over the fool? What advantage does the poor man have, knowing how to walk before the living?” (NASB). His “appetite is not satisfied.” The Hebrew word translated “appetite” may also be translated as “soul.” This is yet another reminder by Solomon that we were made for more than food. A man may get up, go to work, come home, go to bed, and then do the same thing for the next fifty years. After that he retires to Arizona, plays golf, and then he dies. So what? His soul has not been satisfied by anything he has done. He dies unfulfilled even though his friends said nice things about him at his funeral.

What are the signs of workaholism?

The modern term workaholic refers to those people who are addicted to their work. For them, work is life, and the more they work, the better they feel. Here are three telltale signs of workaholism:

  1. Their total energy is given to their work so that they have nothing left to give at home.
  2. They constantly think about their work even when they are not at work.
  3. They find it difficult to relax when they are away from their work.

What are common characteristics of a workaholic?

Workaholics generally are Type A personalities: committed, aggressive, demanding, perfectionistic, goal-oriented, high achievers, impatient with weakness, easily frustrated, having enough stamina to work twelve hours a day six (or seven) days a week. They love the long hours and the high pressure job. One man said, “I don’t know how I got rich. I only worked half-days: the first half or the second half.”

What wrong beliefs do workaholics hold?

From God’s point of view workaholics make three fundamental mistakes. To be more specific, they believe three heretical ideas:

  1. “It all depends upon me.”
  2. “If I don’t do it, nobody else will.”
  3. “My worth depends upon my work.”

Like all heresies, there is a grain of truth in each statement. Work is good. It was created by God for the benefit of the human race (Gen. 2:15). But for a person to believe his worth depends upon his work is to deny the truth of the grace of God. Workaholics are simply repeating the Galatian heresy—that we are saved by grace but kept by works (Eph. 2:8–9; Gal. 3:3).

The truth is, it all depends upon God. Everyone comes to that conclusion sooner or later. Unfortunately, some people have to die to find it out. Happy are those who understand the difference between living to work and working to live.

Fear of Failure

SOURCE:  Shannon Kay Mccoy/Biblical Counseling Coalition

Maria describes her relationship with food as a love/hate affair.

Food is her BFF (Best Friend Forever), her secret pal, and her lover.

She loves to plan special times with her favorite foods—on her way to work, during every work break, at lunchtime, on the ride home, at dinnertime and during midnight cuddling. She loves every tasty morsel while she is eating it. However, with the food nestled in her stomach, she begins to hate it. She hates that her eating is out of control. She hates that she feels bloated and ten pounds heavier. She hates that she has failed another diet. She knows she has to change her disordered eating, but she fears failing again.

Fearing Failure

The fear of failure is being afraid of not accomplishing a desired goal. Fear of failure might cause people to sabotage their own efforts to avoid the possibility of a bigger failure or to avoid trying something new altogether.

Many people are afraid of failing at some point in their lives. But fear of failure crosses the line when it becomes debilitating. It can render them immobile—preventing them from ever moving forward. There are three characteristics that contribute to the fear of failure:

  • People-pleasing
  • Perfectionism
  • Pessimism

People-pleasing

People-pleasing is simply the fear of man. Proverbs 29:25a states, “The fear of man lays a snare.” The fear of appearing as a failure to others controls and confines a person’s thoughts and actions.

Maria desperately wants to please her relatives at the Christmas family reunion by showing them that she lost the extra weight gained since having two kids. She worries about what they will think or say so she decides to go on a crash diet. She fails to complete the diet, doesn’t lose weight, and decides not to go to the Christmas family reunion.

Perfectionism

Perfectionism at its core is pride. It refuses to accept any standard lower than perfection. People with this mentality set excessively high standards, strive for flawlessness, and are overly critical of themselves and others who fail to reach their standards. Fear of failing in perfectionism renders a person useless. This too is a snare, because God’s Word tells us “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23).

Maria makes an appointment with a nutritionist. At the first meeting, Maria sees that the nutritionist is a little pudgy around the waist. Immediately, Maria is turned off to whatever information is given and leaves the appointment determining never to return again. She fears failing to eat right, because the nutritionist did not live up to her expectations.

Pessimism

Pessimism is fearing that whatever is hoped for will not happen. There is no confidence in the future. Pessimists look at challenges with a “glass-half-empty” mentality. They refuse to believe the best and eliminate positive expectations. This is a serious problem that comes from within the heart. The Psalmist cries out to himself, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” (Ps 42:5). His faith wrestles with his fear. There is a sense of despair for the future.

Maria is pessimistic about the weight loss program at work. She has no confidence that she will lose weight. She has tried so many different diet programs resulting in nothing but utter failure. She thinks to herself, “Why would this program be any different? I will fail at this too.”

Do you struggle with the fear of failure like Maria? Overcoming the fear of failure begins with acknowledgement. It takes courage to admit and face your fear of failure. Next, you must explore the causes of your fears. Are your fears rooted in people-pleasing, perfectionism, or pessimism? Finally, seek God’s solution to the problem of fearing failure by trusting in God, boasting in God, and hoping in God.

Trust in God

People-pleasing comes from a self-focused desire to be significant in the eyes of others. People-pleasers fear failing to please others, dealing with their disappointment, and losing their credibility. This is misplaced allegiance which in turn is sin. When people are controlled by pleasing people, they are not pleasing God. To overcome that snare, they must put their trust in God. Proverbs 29:25 proclaims, “… whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” Trusting in God keeps people safe from the snare of people-pleasing. Trusting God—and following him—protects them from concerns over what others think or say about her.

Boast in God

Perfectionism is fear of showing weaknesses by failing to meet high standards of perfection. It is rooted in self-centeredness. It promotes self-praise and self-glorification, which is a sin. The Bible teaches, “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness… God’s power works best in my weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9; 11:30). The power of Jesus Christ dwells in those who boast about their weaknesses instead of trying to cover them up.

Hope in God

Pessimism is a choice. The pessimist chooses to view life from a despairing perspective. But this denies the omniscience and omnipotence of God. The fear of failure implies that God doesn’t know what He is doing in your life or that He doesn’t have the power to fix it. Fearing failure demonstrates a lack of hope in God. Yet passages like Psalm 42:5 encourage us, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation.” The psalmist challenged his own pessimism and chose to put his hope in God.

Maria acknowledges that she is a people-pleaser, a perfectionist, and a pessimist. Through prayer and an earnest desire to seek the Lord instead of her own self-focused desires, her heart has begun to change. When the temptation arises to fear failure, she chooses to trust God instead of pleasing people; she chooses to boast in God instead of her own achievements, and she chooses to hope in God.

Our greatest hope is found in Jesus Christ. The gospel reminds us that our failures are not a surprise to God. He uses our failures to teach us flexibility, humility, patience, perseverance, compassion, and persistence. Ultimately, our failures, when surrender to God, help to grow us into the image of Jesus Christ.

Parenting: Who’s Running Things Around Here?

SOURCE:  Chris and Michelle Groff/Family Life Ministry

 The undeniable fact is that God expects parents to lead the family.

Aaron and Jennie wanted the best for their daughter Claire. They knew a good high school resume was important to get into a prestigious college. They also knew this didn’t just happen; it required years of preparatory work.

Over the years, they pushed Claire to excel in school and extracurricular activities—the ones she would need in order to be a “success.” Aaron and Jennie sacrificed a lot of time and energy to help Claire lay the groundwork for her future.

Early in her life, Claire sensed how important her achievements were to her parents. She wanted to make them proud of her. Whether it was her grades, sports, cheerleading, or clubs, she did it all and excelled at most. But sometimes she neglected more mundane responsibilities because she knew she could count on her parents to bend over backward to make sure she overachieved on the “important stuff.”

For example, when Claire rushed off to school and left her room in a mess, her mother would clean it up because she knew Claire would be exhausted when she came home. Claire’s back-to-back activities were often on different sides of town, so her parents took turns leaving work early to drive her from one to the other. When Claire remembered before a club meeting that she’d signed up to bring brownies, her mother would drop everything, go to the store, and make the brownies so Claire could work on her homework instead.

So who really was running Aaron and Jenny’s household? It was Claire.

Her needs came first, and her parents formed their schedule around hers. Her parents’ desire for success led them to sacrifice their time, money, and energy for the goals they had for Claire.

That may sound noble at first, but a closer look at the role of the central authority will show you how turning the hierarchy in the home upside down actually results in less growth and maturity, less preparedness for the world, and the possibility of a serious case of entitlement on the part of the children.

So what is a proper biblical authority structure for parents and children?

A hierarchy for healthy families

The undeniable fact is that God expects parents to lead the family. In fact, He spelled out a hierarchy designed for healthy family functioning: The husband is to be the loving, self-sacrificing head of the wife and kids. With this authority comes the most challenging task of all: to love his wife the way Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:23). Talk about a high calling!

Next, the wife is to be intimately involved in and consulted on family decisions. (See Ephesians 5:21 and 1 Peter 3:7.) Just because she is subject to the husband’s headship doesn’t mean she has no authority. In reality, lots of child-raising responsibilities are delegated to Mom, and Dad must support her in those tasks.

Finally, children are to obey their parents and learn from the loving, empathetic relationship that develops with them. (See Ephesians 6:1-4.) God designed the family in such a way that parents are to function as a team of true, loving, central authorities. This lays the foundation for everyone to fulfill his or her responsibilities to the family with love rather than selfishness or pride. (See Ephesians 5:21-6:4.)

Parents must learn the dynamics of exercising authority together. Intuitively, kids will learn to master the divide-and-conquer approach to dealing with authority. They will quickly recognize the weaknesses in the parental team and learn how to pit Mom against Dad when it works to their advantage.

For example, if Mom has a particular way of dealing with problems and Dad has another, the children will learn to choose which one is better for them as each individual situation crops up.  They can run to the rescuer to avoid consequences and to the dictator when they need a problem solved.

Kids are much more likely to learn how to solve problems and face consequences when their parents are united in their approach and fully supportive of each other.  These parents are able to provide clearer boundaries and a greater sense of security to their kids.

This may require parents to have team meetings from time to time in order to work together.  Ideally, you’ll discuss these difficult parenting issues in private so you can agree on boundaries and deliver effective consequences as a unit.  Even if you don’t have time to consult one another before each issue, you’ve got to be supportive of the other parent and keep your disagreements private and behind closed doors.

Fear of discipline

An even more subtle way children indirectly acquire the role of central authority is when parenting decisions are shaped by a fear of discipline or causing pain.  When parents fail to exercise their authority because they can’t stand to see their kids suffer consequences or because they are afraid their kids will be mad at them, the kids have become the authorities in the home.  These fearful parents resort to pleading, bargaining, or whining to get their kids to do what they want, but these approaches undermine their authority and rarely get the responses they are seeking.

Some parents are so afraid of being disliked by their kids that they fail to establish reasonable boundaries for the kids’ behavior.  These parents rationalize with comments like “Well, they were going to do it anyway, so I thought they might as well do it where I can keep an eye on them.”  What’s sad is that the effort to convince their children to like them usually results in disrespect and entitlement instead.

Still other parents are afraid to exercise their authority because they think that enforcing boundaries with consequences will damage their child’s self-esteem.  They believe every experience must be a positive one or their child will become discouraged and lose heart.  But one of the reasons God gives people trials is to build perseverance, maturity, and confidence.  Parents who believe in their children and support them in their struggles without rescuing will find that godly self-esteem is a natural by-product of the process of struggling through discipline.  (See James 1:2-4 and Romans 5:3-5.)

In contrast to the parents who are afraid to exercise authority, other parents exercise it too harshly.  These parents run the family like a drill sergeant, barking out orders and expecting everyone to jump at their commands.  They often insist on “first-time obedience,” expecting their kids to obey every command without challenge, excuse, or delay.

While we all want our kids to obey the first time we ask, the dictatorial approach sends a message that we aren’t willing to listen to our kids.  It emphasizes our power and authority over the value of having an authentic relationship with our kids.  This makes obedience difficult for rebellious kids and mechanical for compliant kids.  In neither case is the child learning from his or her experiences because the parents are forcing their will on the child rather than walking beside them and using the experiences to shape their character.

Far from having the positive influence they desire, an overbearing parenting style can cause kids to become preoccupied with the power disparity.  As a result, many kids can’t wait to get out from underneath this power structure as soon as possible.  In the meantime, they will look for passive/aggressive ways to exert their own power.

As parents, it is time to reevaluate what it truly means to exercise godly authority.  This is not being permissive or domineering but rather being balanced as God is balanced.  He will help us learn to exercise our authority well and how to maintain a careful balance between truth and love.  God expects and equips us to exercise our power empathetically and judiciously, with the overarching goal of encouraging each member of the family to grow into the person He designed them to be.  Pray for the wisdom to be that kind of parent.

Bringing it home

God created families with a particular hierarchy in mind, and parents are at the top of that hierarchy.  For dictators, this is a comfortable position.  For rescuers afraid of disciplining their kids, it can be more difficult.  But a balance of bonding and boundaries is essential to being a godly authority that earns respect by treating his or her kids with respect.  A balanced parent sets boundaries, gives age-appropriate choices within those boundaries, and delivers consequences when kids stray.

Kids will sometimes assume the position of authority in a family when the parents cede power to them, either by making the children’s activities the most important events of each day or by failing to deliver consequences when they are deserved.  Take some time to reflect and pray about your responsibilities and priorities for your family.  Is family time sacred, or does it get sacrificed in order to get to the next practice, game, meeting, or event?  Do you eat dinner together often, or is life too hectic for that?

Do you lovingly discipline your children when they make poor choices, or are you afraid of their reaction?  What about the reaction of other parents?  Do you worry that you might be seen as a bad parent if your kids are not doing all the things the other kids are doing?  Or do you insist on first-time obedience and fail to consider that it’s important for your kids to know the reasons for asking them to do something?  Is your attitude “my way or the highway” where your kids’ thoughts, opinions, or reactions are ignored just to get things done?

Take heart!  God knows your struggles and your tendencies.  Ask for help, and wait to hear.  Spend some time with your Bible and look for God’s wisdom.  He will speak through the words on those pages.  Be empathetic and earn the respect of your kids through clear boundaries, consistent consequences, and a willingness to walk with them through the struggles of life.

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Taken from Parenting by Design, copyright © 2014 by Chris and Michelle Groff, with Lee Long.

 

Don’t Worry, You Won’t Be a Perfect Parent

SOURCE:  Relevant Magazine/Lisa Pennington

You will mess up, and that’s OK.

I am the absolute worst potty trainer in the history of planet earth. My kids, even though they are smart and clever, don’t seem to catch on to the concept of using the toilet until they are much older than average. I try everything, read everything, use crazy techniques (Once I tried floating Cheerios in the potty, don’t ask how it went.) and still they don’t figure it out on my timeline.

I think it’s God’s way of reminding me I’m not perfect.

He does that from time to time, or daily. God points out I’m not the one in charge here. As much as I would like to have a formula for parenting, there is a huge gap between what seems like the best way and what actually happens.

Parenting is a series of obstacles we dodge and prepare for only to trip and fall at least half of the time. We just have to get back up and keep going with God’s grace.

We get this idea in our head that if we make the “right” choices and do the “best” job then our kids will turn out “great.” But what is right, best or great is not as clear as we would like. Even something as simple as teaching a child to tie his shoe can turn into World War III without warning. You show him how to loop the shoelaces, he doesn’t understand, you try a little harder, he cries, you cry, you buy him some Velcro sneakers in defeat. You lose your confidence, you wonder if he will be able to handle the next step in his life, you start looking at the price of vacations on an island in the South Pacific.

We get this idea in our head that if we make the “right” choices and do the “best” job then our kids will turn out “great.” But what is right, best or great is not as clear as we would like.

So what do we do when we our plans don’t work? Even the very best moms and dads have kids who make poor choices. Hey, even the first man who had the perfect Father made some pretty awful decisions! We have to accept that despite all of our valiant efforts, there is a place in our child we can’t reach—I like to call it the God place.

The God place is the area deep inside of each of us only God can see, touch and repair. We can show our child how to tie his shoe, we can explain why it’s necessary to tie a shoe, we can even wear our own laces joyfully—but we can’t make him want to do it. We don’t have the power to make our child want something, no matter how much we try. That is between your child and God.

It’s our job to love, teach, enforce and set an example, then trust God to do the rest. Patience is the key. That and a lot of prayer. Oh, I don’t mean prayer for your child, although it’s important. I mean prayer for yourself not to lose your mind over this little person who seems to be dead set on pushing every boundary.

If you mess up (which you will!), God will take those lessons to shape your child. Either way, the result is God’s job.

You have to trust God to reach those places in your child. If you raise your child well, God will use your efforts and build on them. If you mess up (which you will!), God will take those lessons to shape your child. Either way, the result is God’s job.

Trying techniques and theories and chore charts and reward systems are all good options. But once you have put the system into place, don’t believe for a second it is going to assure an outcome you want. From babies who won’t sleep to toddlers who won’t eat to teens who refuse to enjoy, well, anything, we must give our kids’ needs over to God. Some people need different lessons, and only God knows what they are.

Before you get completely discouraged and decide to give up trying and just go hide in the closet with a bag of chocolate, believe that your role as a parent is important. You have a place in your heart too where only God can reach, and He speaks to you there on behalf of your child. You will get inspiration and encouragement from Him to try new ideas and you will be amazed at how His ideas produce a better outcome than any of your plans could have.

Just because you can’t guarantee the outcome you want doesn’t mean you don’t try. Remember your efforts are a tool of God, not a guarantee. Even though you are a huge piece of the puzzle for your child, you are only one piece.

And by the way, all of my children are now fully potty trained despite my inadequacies. I fumbled my way through it each time and learned some valuable lessons from those days. First, I learned to lean on God for inspiration and grace when I didn’t know what to do. Second, I learned to always keep a few towels in the back of my minivan. Both of those lessons have come in handy many times since!

Confessions of a Former Perfectionist

SOURCE:  Todays Christian Woman/Kathy Collard Miller

How four discoveries helped me realize my unreasonable expectations of my husband

One evening when I returned home from shopping, my husband, Larry, met me at the door, grinning. What’s he up to? I wondered.

He led me into the kitchen and announced, “I did the dishes for you!”

As I hugged him and exclaimed, “Thank you!” I looked over his shoulder and noticed crumbs and drops of liquid on the counter.

But you haven’t wiped the counter, I thought. You haven’t finished the dishes! Before I could chastise him, I remembered how my struggles with perfectionism and impatience robbed me of enjoying and appreciating my wonderful husband. I thanked him again, determined not to allow his “mistakes” to bother me.

The next evening Larry did the dishes again. I realized he wouldn’t have washed them a second time if I’d criticized him the day before. I witnessed again the power of affirming his attempts—even if they didn’t meet my expectations.

Someone once said that a perfectionist is a person who takes great pains and passes them on to others. I would have given my husband a great pain that evening if I’d discounted his effort. Yet that’s exactly what perfectionism does: It brings pain and destruction to our lives and marriages.

Throughout the first seven years of our marriage I struggled with perfectionist tendencies. Nothing Larry did was good enough. He wasn’t a good enough provider—even though he worked two jobs to support our family while I stayed home with the kids. He didn’t talk enough to me; he didn’t help properly with the housework; he wasn’t as concerned about my desires and expectations as I was. The list went on and on. My standards were set so high that Larry couldn’t win—ever. Since Larry didn’t meet all my needs, I believed I couldn’t give him credit when he showed me love. Instead I focused on his inadequacies. No matter how Larry tried to please me, I found fault and pointed out his shortcomings to “motivate” him. I “punished” him with my displeasure by withholding sex, affection, joy.

My demands and impatience were destroying my marriage! Larry began to work more overtime, and when he was home, he tuned me out by reading or watching TV. My sense of failed expectations became so bad that I felt I didn’t even love him anymore!

Then one day during my devotions, God opened my eyes to what I was doing. My behavior wasn’t getting me what I wanted. So why was I continuing it? I’d thought, When Larry changes and meets my needs, then I can be joyful and content.But I realized he might never change! God wanted me to be joyful and content regardless.

From that day on I worked to reverse my attitude, become more patient, and strengthen our relationship by putting these four ideas into practice.

It’s okay to give yourself a break.

I realized I couldn’t give Larry a break, because I couldn’t give myself one. Perfectionism can be called a kind of “dys-grace” or “ungrace” because it’s the opposite of grace. Perfectionism says, I need to earn approval, while grace offers approval as a free gift.

I expected myself to be perfect because I felt God—and others!—required it. That pressure spilled into my marriage. From my perspective, I was striving for perfection—so my spouse should too!

Granting myself grace has been a gradual growth process. But if we believe that God understands our mistakes and messes—that he’s willing to forgive—then we can stop expecting too much from ourselves and our spouse. In Philippians 1:6, the apostle Paul assures us God knows our weaknesses and won’t give up on us: “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (NASB). As Christians, because we accepted that Jesus bore our sins when he died on the cross, you and I are already perfect in God’s sight. We have nothing to prove; we’re accepted.

It’s okay to give your spouse a break.

Once I was able to understand that God grants me grace, I was able to offer grace and patience to my husband.

One day God helped me put that into practice. Larry, an amateur pilot, was out flying his plane while I was home cleaning the house. I sensed God say, “Tell Larry you love him.” I was shocked. No! I thought. I don’t love Larry. My unmet expectations had squelched my love—because love and a perfectionist attitude can’t really coexist.

Besides, I thought, I haven’t said those words to him in more than two years. If I say them now, he might think I approve of his negligence toward me and the kids. In my perfectionistic thinking since I didn’t feel love for Larry all the time, I couldn’t say I loved him.

Finally, I felt God whisper, “Think it the next time you see Larry.”

That’s strange, I thought. But if he doesn’t hear me, then he can’t use it against me. All right, Lord, I’ll do it, even if it isn’t true.

That evening when Larry returned, I stared at him, gulped, and thought, I love you … but I don’t really.

Even though I obeyed God begrudgingly, an amazing thing happened. Over the following months, as I continued to think the words I love you whenever I looked at Larry, I began to feel love for him. I also recognized that I’d been holding Larry responsible for my happiness. As I received grace for myself and then offered it to Larry, my “all or nothing” thinking changed. I accepted the truth that Larry couldn’t meet all my needs—only God could. In time, Larry noticed that I wasn’t as angry and demanding. And our marriage became more comfortable and enjoyable for both of us.

It’s okay to give positive feedback.

I remember one time when Larry was hanging pictures, I refrained from saying anything positive until all were placed precisely the way I wanted. I reasoned, If I tell Larry he’s doing a great job before he’s finished, he’ll get lazy and not complete the project the way I need it done. I didn’t realize I was discouraging him; I thought I was motivating him.

But excellence is doing our best with the resources at hand. Positive feedback is what really motivates my spouse—even in the middle of a project or when it may not be done as “perfectly” as I’d like! That’s why I could say “thank you” the day he did the dishes, even though he hadn’t wiped the counter. Years ago, I would have felt it was my duty to correct him immediately, withholding approval until the job was done exactly to my specifications.

When I sense the need to correct my spouse and withhold praise for the job he’s done, I ask myself these questions: Is it really that important? Can I wait until another time when he isn’t basking in the glory of his accomplishment? Waiting helps diminish those perfectionistic tendencies.

Once I began to lighten up, Larry confessed, “I used to think, Kathy is never satisfied no matter what I do, so I might as well give up trying to please her. I don’t think that anymore. Now I want to please you because I know you’ll appreciate it.”

It’s okay to be different.

While this is an obvious statement, it was a shocker for me to grasp: My spouse views life differently than I do. I always believed Larry saw life from my perspective. And since there was only one way of doing things, he should do them the right way—my way!

My viewpoint took a 180 degree turn, however, after a friend gave Larry and me a personality test. After we finished, we discovered our temperaments and learning styles are different.

My temperament, combined with my perfectionism, makes me want to over-analyze all the facts before making a decision. And then I constantly second-guess myself. Larry’s temperament enables him to make fast decisions and feel confident about them. Before, I’d thought fast decision-making indicated he wasn’t sensitive to my opinions.

The test stressed that different is different; it’s not necessarily wrong. It didn’t mean he was insensitive to my opinions. As I recognized that Larry and I view situations differently—and that’s okay!—I became more patient, loving, and kind toward him. I have to remind myself that there are several ways to do something—not just my way. As someone once said, “Two plus two may equal four. But so does three plus one.”

While sometimes it still frustrates me that he “can’t get his act together,” I rely on patience and grace. I ask myself, Is this because we define “act” differently? Are different motives energizing us? Then I take a look at my answers. Usually, I’m the one who’s more rigid, so I stop taking his behavior personally, back off, and accept our differences.

Now that Larry and I have been married 35 years, we look back on that time 28 years ago when my perfectionism brought “great pains” into our relationship with gratitude for God’s healing. By changing my viewpoint and giving grace and patience to myself and to my husband, I’ve learned to appreciate him. Now I express my love many times a day—and so does he. And yes, we even rejoice in our differences!

I MUST Forgive (ME)!

SOURCE:   Leslie Vernick

 Do You Struggle Forgiving Yourself?

Sometimes the hardest person to forgive is you.

Perhaps you have had an abortion, been involved in an extra-marital affair, done something really stupid, or hurt someone deeply through your sinful or foolish behaviors.

For some, even lesser sins or mistakes cause the same internal anguish.   We’re endlessly tormented with the thought, “I should have known better,” or “What’s wrong with me” or “I can’t believe I did that.”  Or “How could I have been so stupid, weak, blind, etc.”

When we aren’t able to move beyond our own failures, mistakes, and even sins, we can get stuck in spiral of debilitating regret, depression, and even self-hatred.

Yes, we know (or hear) God forgives us, but the problem is we just can’t forgive ourselves.  We may be told something like, “If the God of the Universe was willing to come to earth, become human, and sacrifice himself to forgive your sins, who are you not to forgive others, or your own self?”

Yet that theological truth can be difficult (if not impossible) to put into practice when you’re smack in the middle of ruminating over your stupid mistakes, missed opportunities, or grievous sin.  Although mentally acknowledged, God’s grace is not your internal reality. It’s theological truth but not transformational truth.

The way out of this internal bondage is not self-forgiveness; but rather self-acceptance.   Although it’s hard for you to recognize the true problem, the reason you can’t forgive yourself is that deep down you don’t want to have anything to need forgiveness for.  You want to be like God – perfect and in control of all things.

You believe you should know how to always do it right, to say it right, to know ahead of time what the right answer should be or what right solution will best solve a problem.  You believe you shouldn’t ever mess up, or sin big time.  Deep down you believe if only you could live that way, then you’d feel better about yourself.

But when you fail (and as a mere mortal and sinful being you inevitably will), you feel profound disappointment and shame about yourself.  You can’t believe how stupid, sinful, foolish, incompetent, scared, irresponsible, selfish, (whatever) you are. In beating yourself up, you are reinforcing your internal lie that you should have been better than that.

Before you can experientially accept God’s grace and forgiveness, you must first emotionally (not merely intellectually) accept who you are.  There is only one God and you are not him.  You are a creature: one who is called both saint and sinner, beautiful and broken.

Humility is the only path that will give you the internal freedom you crave because once you are humble – Jesus called it “poor in spirit,” you are in a position to emotionally accept who you are— a fallible, imperfect creature who doesn’t know it all.  Then you are no longer shocked, shamed, or disappointed when you see your darker, sinful, weaker side.

Friend, it is not your sins and failures that cause your greatest emotional pain. Rather it is your unrealistic expectations of yourself and your lack of acceptance when you mess up.   In a backwards way, your pride has been wounded.  You are disappointed that you aren’t better than you are.  But the truth is, you’re not.  In embracing that truth, you are also set free to embrace and experience the beauty of God’s grace.

Now the grip of self-hatred for being imperfect no longer has the same power over you.

Now that same emotional energy can be used to humbly ask for forgiveness from others where necessary. Instead of hating yourself for your sins and failures and weaknesses, now you can learn from them so you grow and don’t  continually repeat your mistakes.

Now you can fully experience what you so desperately crave, God’s love and forgiveness for your sinful, imperfect self.

One of my favorite old fashioned mentors, François Fénelon wisely wrote, “Go forward always with confidence, without letting yourself be touched by the grief of a sensitive pride, which cannot bear to see itself imperfect.”

Go forward friend and emotionally accept your imperfections.  It is in that place of humility coupled with Christ’s unconditional forgiveness will you find the freedom you long for.

 

 

It’s Okay for Your Kids to Fail

Source:  Jim Daly/Focus on the Family

How do we teach our kids how to deal with mistakes correctly?

I think Christians may have a harder time dealing with mistakes than nonbelievers.

Some of my friends who aren’t Christians have tremendous relationships with their kids. They have a great rapport with them, in part because they have a basic acceptance of their humanity, an understanding of their own innate weaknesses. That seems easier for nonbelievers to accept.

As Christians, we have very high standards for our kids, and perhaps rightly so. But that can also make us more intolerant of mistakes than we should be. When we aim for perfection, an inherently impossible standard to reach, we run the danger of not just encouraging our children to do better and to improve, but also of telling them they’re just not good enough and they will never be good enough.

But that’s a me problem, not a God problem. When you look at it from God’s point of view, I doubt He’s looking for perfection, since He knows it’s impossible for us to attain. He’s looking instead for a continuously better relationship with Him. Sometimes the moments we veer off course are the exact moments we swerve closer to our Lord. Sometimes when we feel as though God is grading us with an F, we’re actually getting an A. Why? Because we’re getting closer to the One who made us and realizing our dependence on Him. We’re depending on the payment of perfection that Jesus provided by dying for each of us.

Learning lessons

This doesn’t mean God likes us to make mistakes or commit sins. He simply knows that we will and expects us to learn from them and not repeat those mistakes. So how do we turn our mistakes into lessons? How do we teach our kids how to deal with mistakes correctly, not flogging themselves over them, not by accepting them like they’re no big deal, but by growing from them?

In my family, it begins with a talk. If you were to ask my kids what I tell them about perfection, they’d say, “Oh, he says he’s not perfect. And we’re not perfect.” I’ve tried to plant that thought in their minds—that we’re all works in progress in God’s eyes.

There’s a big difference between “not good enough” and “not perfect.” When you’re talking about perfection, you’re talking about God’s standard of measure. To understand that we’re not perfect, and can never be perfect in God’s eyes, develops in us a healthy understanding of reality—God’s reality. We all fall short of God’s standard of perfection.

From there, we build in the theology of the acceptance of Christ and sanctification and trying by His power to do better. We can teach our kids that, when we fail, we must turn to God and ask for forgiveness. And by extension, doing this will help us teach how important it is to apologize to the people in our lives whom we’ve hurt through our mistakes and shortcomings.

This understanding of our own imperfections helps us avoid the modern-day legalism that endangers so many Christians. We in the Christian community need to learn to relax a little, to realize that perfection for our kids remains out of reach. Sure, we want them to learn and grow from their mistakes all the time; we will help them see that God wants us to live every day in a way that shows we are making progress. But we have to understand, and help our kids understand, that we all fail sometimes. And that failure is okay.

Let me repeat that: It’s okay for your kids to fail sometimes. Because that’s often how they learn the best.

It’s a tough balancing act, but it’s a challenge that all dads deal with at some point—and may even have opportunities to teach several times a day.

Turning a mistake into an opportunity

I had a moment like this with my son Trent not too long ago. He lied to me about finishing his math homework. When I discovered the truth, I sat him down for a talk. We talked about why it’s important to work hard in school. We talked about why lying, particularly to your father, is never appropriate. We talked about how we’re made in God’s image and how we need to strive to be more like Jesus every day.

I wanted to turn his mistake into an opportunity to learn and grow—not to make him feel like a failure (because he had failed) but to help him understand why it’s important to do better the next time.

It took time to get to this point, to understand that mistakes are just lessons in disguise. My frustration level when my boys were younger rose much higher than it does today. I can feel myself mellowing out. And I’m happy with that. I like it.

For me, it’s all about concentrating on the things I should concentrate on. The things I can teach. The love I can show. The ability, when something bad happens, to put my arm around my child and say, “It’ll be okay.”

That’s so important, because kids have such great fears about disappointing us or letting us down. They worry about consequences. And honestly, they may have to face big consequences for what they do. Just because we understand that kids make mistakes doesn’t alleviate the importance of trying to correct those mistakes. But we should always help our children understand that, even if they get punished for something, it isn’t going to separate them from our love.

Own up to your mistakes

And somehow in the middle of all that, as parents we must find a way to convey that we’re not perfect either. Now that doesn’t mean we should spill out our guts to our kids when they’re 5. They don’t need to hear about the time you tried pot in high school or about your sexual experiences in college. There may be a time and a place to talk with your kids about your less than God-honoring experiences, but sometimes what’s in the past is better served staying there for a while.

But when it comes down to the mistakes you make today, particularly the moments you wrong your own children, it’s important to confess and tell them you’re sorry, just as you’d expect them to confess and apologize to you.

It’s a wonderful model and an enriching moment to deal openly and honestly with your kids, to be able to say, “I’m sorry, I think I’ve offended you,” or to ask, “Have I hurt you in some way? Have I embarrassed you? Have I in the last week made you angry?”

I know families who do this around the dinner table during a family chat. It has to be a safe environment in which kids can answer questions honestly, without fear of punishment. They teach the kids that it’s safe to answer candidly and to transparently share their own feelings.

Parents need some training too. They have to resist the temptation to rationalize or correct their children. I know we feel strongly tempted to brush off a child’s hurt and concerns because when we do this exercise in my own house, I feel as tempted as anyone. I want to rationalize or explain why I did this or that. It’s hard to ask a really frightening question—“Have I done anything this week to offend you?”—and then just accept the answer, particularly when your kids are 12 or 13 or 14. So many things can offend kids who are that age.

It can be both hard and humbling. But it can also open the doors to an enriching honesty that’ll pay huge dividends later on.

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The Good Dad  Adapted excerpt from The Good Dad by Jim Daly

I do the connecting, and then God does the perfecting!

SOURCE:  Jan Johnson

Rowing or Sailing?

Transformation into Christlikeness and the Christian life in general seem like a lot of work to many people.

They may even think: 

There must be more to this life than trying;

God must be disappointed in me;

It feels like I live a double life (a public Christian life and a secret life of pain, disappointment, or failure);

No matter how hard I try, I don’t seem to measure up to the standards I know are right and good.

In fact, most of us have experienced the weight of knowing all the things we should be doing and not doing, and the exhaustion of being behind where we think we ought to be. Giving more and trying harder seem to be the only alternatives. As a result, a lot of people give up hope of becoming more of what God wants them to be, because they have no idea how to add any more to what they are already doing.

With that approach, the spiritual life is like rowing a boat (by yourself!). You do your best to persist, even when it is hard. You go to conferences, study, and get involved in serving. You try to do the right things, but never get as far as you think you should.

At times you may even feel as if you were issued only one oar and so you keep going in circles. Some find themselves rowing against the current and going more backward than forward. When they ask for help they seem to hear: “Row harder” or “Do more” or “You are not dedicated enough.”

There is another way in which the wind does most of the work. Sailing. In sailing we learn how to align the sail with the wind and let the wind take us places we could never get to (or imagine) on our own. As we learn how to interact with the sail, we see forward movement because the wind (the Spirit) is doing the hard work.

The sailing approach is spiritual formation, which works from the inside out, relying on the Spirit. Instead of forcing myself to say the words, “I forgive you,” I learn how to engage with God so my heart truly forgives. I can then express the forgiveness from my heart. Instead of only acting as if I love my enemy, I interact with God so that God can change my heart so I actually love them. I demonstrate the life of God because of who I am, not in an effort to override who I am. This changes where I focus my efforts. My task is to learn how to let God work on my heart, rather than trying to do what I think is the right thing to do.

We no longer depend on willpower to override contrary feelings and inclinations, with repeated cycles of repentance and re-dedication: Stability/Failure/Repentance/ Stability. Instead we participate with God to move our inner life forward in ways we cannot manage by our own willpower and effort. The results? Deeper intimacy and trust in God. Scripture comes alive. Internal healing and growth become our normal everyday experience. Life is increasingly seen the way God sees it (through the eyes of heaven).

Formation is then relational.

It is, as many of you have heard me say: You do the connecting, and then God does the perfecting.

The connecting occurs as we glimpse that vision of life in the kingdom of God where I live in companionship with God and rely on God every minute. I use spiritual disciplines (as God invites me) to connect with God. The change in my character then flows out of living a life with God that is rich and full, challenging and adventurous.

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Much of the above is adapted from David Takle’s excellent DVD course, Forming, (www.KingdomFormation.org) with his kind permission.

My Performance ≠ My Value

SOURCE:  Living Free Ministry

“For my part, I am going to boast about nothing but the Cross of our Master, Jesus Christ. Because of that Cross, I have been crucified in relation to the world, set free from the stifling atmosphere of pleasing others and fitting into the little patterns that they dictate. Can’t you see the central issue in all this? It is not what you and I do—submit to circumcision, reject circumcision. It is what God is doing, and he is creating something totally new, a free life! All who walk by this standard are the true Israel of God—his chosen people. Peace and mercy on them!  Galatians 6:14-16 MSG


Wanting to perform at a level of excellence is admirable.

The problem is we are not created to be excellent at everything. The world seems to expect us to be, however, and we sometimes take on unrealistic views of what to expect from ourselves.

Our human tendency is to base our value on how well we perform. We strive to accomplish many things to feel a sense of value and worth. When we do well, we feel good about ourselves. When we don’t meet expectations we or others have placed on us, we see ourselves as failures.

Consider this … 

The possibility of trying to earn God’s and others’ love through how we perform and what we accomplish can overshadow the truth that God loves us for who we are. You may have heard it said that we are human beings, not human “doings.”

God loves you for who you are–his creation.

He loves you unconditionally.

He won’t love you any more–or any less–because of your performance.

Take comfort and rest in knowing that who you are is more important than what you can do. In God’s eyes, you are valuable because he created you and loves you. You belong to him not because of what you have done but because of what Jesus did for you. When you accepted Christ as Lord and Savior, you became a new creation.

It is not what you do. “It is what God is doing, and he is creating something totally new, a free life!”

Prayer

Father, help me remember that my performance, my ability to succeed according to the world’s standards, does not determine my value. But I am valuable because you love me unconditionally, because Jesus died on the cross for me, and because of the person you are molding me to be. In Jesus’ name . . .


These thoughts were drawn from … Where is the Image of God in You?  by Brad Rymer.

This “try, try again” approach will ruin you.

SOURCE:  Jan Johnson

Try, Try Again?  No.

Maybe it starts when you make a mistake: yelling at someone you love or not doing what you promised to do.

Or it starts when you see someone who seems light-years ahead of you: they grin at people who dismiss them; they praise someone who beats them out of a job. You feel so far behind! Your lack of character really shows.

Then we think: When am I going to get it? When am I going to stop being lazy, stop showing off, quit being depressed, no longer withdraw from the people I love, stop worrying over something that didn’t happen or cease trying to control my co-workers or family members? It’s easy to sink deeper into it: Why can’t I overcome this? Especially if our shortcoming is considered a “big” sin among the people we hang out with.

These questions keep our thoughts spinning and often lead to despair and hopelessness. We believe the answer is: Try harder. We’ve heard the saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try – try again!” No. If I’ve lost my way back to my car, I don’t keep going back to the same space, thinking my car will magically appear. I pause. I stop and think. The saying should be: If at first you don’t succeed, ask God for help. I consider that God will show me a wiser, (usually) gentler approach.

First, we ask God for a “next step,” which doesn’t have to be huge. In fact, a smaller next step usually works better and leads to many more. A wise friend or spiritual director might suggest a better and different next step we haven’t thought of.

But we also look deeper. We ask the Spirit to show us the source of the problem (anger, exhaustion, boredom)? What am I afraid of? What (perhaps wise) caution is blocking me? These questions usually have to percolate with the help of the Spirit. Out of these questions may come a few small “next steps.”

This “try, try again” approach will ruin you.

Such spinning of thoughts is (I believe) a favorite method of the enemy to divert our attention from focusing on the Indwelling Christ. Going over and over our performance (How am I doing?) focuses us on ourselves, not God. When we focus on ourselves this way, we make ourselves the “star” of our spirituality instead of letting God be the “star” of our spirituality. Instead of asking, How am I doing? we ask, What, O God, are you leading me to be? To think? To do? Show me. Walk with me.

True humility involves relying on God all day long, moment by moment. “I can do all things through Christ who strengths me” . . . for the next ten minutes (Philippians 4;13, altered).

My inadequacy in this situation or my character flaw is clear to me and I’m not disturbed by it. I can’t overcome sin. “I do nothing on my own,” said Jesus (John 5:30). So I ask god, What are you leading me to be? To think? To do? Show me. Walk with me.

In humility we accept that growth is about progress, not perfection. Abraham journeyed on by stages (Genesis 12:9; 13:3). Israel was led “day by day continually” (Exodus 29:38). As we also do this, we can embrace the One who accompanies us on this journey, who loves being with us, who invites us to abide in Christ as Christ abides in us.

Scoring Perfect at Being Perfect

SOURCE:  Living Free

How Do You Score?

“Peace I leave with you; My [own] peace I now give and bequeath to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. [Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled.]”
John 14:27 AMP

So how do you score as a perfectionist? Here are some things to consider . . .

Check all that apply:

______  1. Because of fear, I often avoid participating in certain activities.

______  2. When I sense I might experience failure in some important area, I become nervous and anxious.

______  3. I worry.

______  4. I have unexplained anxiety.

______  5. I am rarely satisfied with the quality of my work.

______  6. I am compelled to justify my mistakes.

______  7. I feel I must succeed in certain areas.

______  8. I become depressed when I fail.

______  9. I become angry with people who interfere with my attempts to succeed, and, as a result, make me appear incompetent.

______ 10. I am self-critical.

Consider this …

How can you use your answers?

First – don’t worry about a perfect score! Just ask the Lord to reveal any areas you may need to work on and pray about.

In today’s scripture, Jesus reminds us the world’s ways are different from his ways. When we look to the world for security, love, and approval, we will often be disappointed. Only in Jesus can we find total acceptance, unconditional love, real security, and everlasting peace. He tells us to stop being agitated, disturbed, fearful and intimidated.

We should not measure ourselves by what the world thinks of us. We need to find peace in Jesus, knowing we are valuable because we are special to him –  and always will be.

Prayer …

Lord, help me to stop being fearful about what others think of me, trying to earn love and approval by being perfect. I know you love me unconditionally. Help me to rest in the peace that comes only from you. In Jesus’ name . . .


These thoughts were drawn from …

Seeing Yourself in God’s Image: Overcoming Anorexia and Bulimia by Martha Homme, MA, LPC.

Help, I’m Not Perfect!

SOURCE:  Living Free

“As the Scriptures say, ‘No one is righteous-not even one.'” Romans 3:10 NLT

Does God require perfectionism?

Absolutely!

Can we be perfect?

No way.

We serve a holy God. Because he is holy, only the perfect can be in his presence. He requires perfectionism (sometimes called righteousness) for us to be in relationship with him. This presents a problem because the Bible makes it clear no one is perfect. And we don’t have to look far to know that is true. We can simply look in a mirror.

But God has provided a solution to the problem.

Why?

Because he loves us and wants to have a relationship with us. He wants us to spend eternity with him.

His solution?

He sent his only son, Jesus, who was perfect, to pay the penalty for our lack of perfection, our sin. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we can be made perfect – not by what we do, but by what he did.

We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty  for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. (Romans 3:22-25 NLT)

Consider this … 

Christ died for me . . .

  • Because I cannot be perfect
  • So I need not be perfect

Are you still struggling to do life on your own? Always trying to do the right thing but so often coming up short? Only Jesus can help you. If you’ve never done so, consider turning to him. Do you believe he is the perfect Son of God who died and rose again? Are you ready to give him all the failures and sins and begin depending on him instead of yourself? Then tell him. He loves you unconditionally and wants to forgive you and help you through life.

When you have invited Jesus into your life, he covers you with his righteousness. When our heavenly Father looks at you, he sees only that righteousness. Not because of anything you did or didn’t do – but because of Jesus.

I am overwhelmed with joy in the LORD my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. (Isaiah 61:10 NLT)

Prayer
God, I know I have sinned. I believe Jesus, your perfect son, died on the cross for my sins. I accept the forgiveness, the gift of righteousness, he offers me. Please forgive me. I want to follow Jesus. In his name . . .


These thoughts were drawn from …

Seeing Yourself in God’s Image: Overcoming Anorexia and Bulimia by Martha Homme, MA, LPC.

“Help! I’m Wrecking My Kids!”

Why you’ll never be a perfect parent—and why you don’t need to be

SOURCE:  Discipleship Journal/Carla Barnhill

If you’re a parent, you’ve received “the look.” You know which look I mean. It’s the one you get from the kid bagging your groceries while your three-year-old is coming unglued in the cart. It’s the one you get from that older woman you pass in the aisle at Target at the exact moment your five-year-old says “fart” in her outside voice. It’s the one you get from your mother-in-law when your six-year-old runs across her new carpet in his muddy shoes. It’s the one that says, “You are the most incompetent parent on the face of the earth.” And it might not bother us so much if we weren’t secretly afraid it were true.

Every parent I know—including me—is terrified that he or she is somehow messing up.

Take last month, when I realized I had neglected to sign up my son for kindergarten. (Please don’t ask how this happened. It’s a long and embarrassing story of maternal brain drain.) Because of my forgetfulness, it looked like he wasn’t going to get into the school our daughter attends—the school we’d been telling him he’d go to, the school all his friends were going to. So for several very tense days, my husband and I brainstormed and pursued our limited options.

Finally, the school called and said they were able to fit our son in. All was right with the world once again. But during those few days of uncertainty, I could hardly look at my sweet son. I tried telling myself

I was good at the things that really matter to my kids—loving them, caring for them, teaching them. And that worked until I reminded myself that school is one of those things that really matter. I felt horrible.

Not that this was the first time I felt I’d failed my children. No, that happens at least once a day. Even as I write this, my five-year-old is watching more TV than he should, and my one-year-old is in her crib crying because she’s just woken up from her nap. And I’m trying to squeeze out five more minutes to finish this paragraph. That’s right, I’m placing work ahead of my kids.

And these are just the little failures. The ones that really scare me are the ones I don’t even know about, the ones that won’t show themselves until my kids grow up. I can’t watch Oprah without worrying that one day it will be my adult children confessing to Dr. Robin that they can’t hold a job or stay in a marriage or stop robbing banks because of something I did—or neglected to do—that scarred them for life.

NO MAGIC FORMULA

If you’re a parent, you’ve likely experienced similar fears. This parental paranoia drives us to do everything possible to ensure that our children turn out OK. We read them children’s Bibles and teach them bedtime prayers and haul them to Sunday school every week to make sure they develop a faith that will carry them safely into adulthood. We read all the parenting books and listen to all the parenting experts and go to all the parenting classes in the hope that someone will give us the magic formula for raising happy, healthy children.

I hate to be the one to say this, but there’s no such thing. People who were raised by lovely, godly people still find ways to mess up their lives. And many wonderful, faith-filled adults grew up in homes where God’s name was only uttered in vain. There is no formula. There are no guarantees.

The idea that parenting is an “if…then” proposition (if you do everything right, then your children will reach adulthood unscathed) is deeply flawed—and dare I say unbiblical. It’s flawed because no one makes it to adulthood “unscathed.” It’s unbiblical because it takes the ways God can work in the life of your child right out of the picture.

Trying to live up to the myth of the perfect family leaves us stressed and anxious, and it’s no picnic for our kids either. When we judge ourselves by our children’s behavior, we tend to see all of their mistakes and few of their successes. We miss developing a relationship with the people they are because we are so focused on the people they aren’t.

How can we escape the cycle of fear and anxiety? Perhaps the solution is to start thinking differently about parenting.

TRANSFORMED PARENTS

I’d like to suggest a shift in perspective that recognizes that there is far more to parenting than making sure your children don’t swear at their teachers or sell drugs to the neighbors. It is a perspective of parenthood as a spiritual practice.

We tend to think of spiritual practices as those activities intended to draw us closer to God: prayer, devotions, worship, and so on. Yet when we expand our view a bit, we realize that God can use everything in our lives to form us into the people we were created to be. Think about the ways you’ve been formed by your marriage, your relationship with your best friend, or your work. We may not always respond to each person and situation very well or very quickly, but the more we practice loving our spouses or being patient with irritating coworkers, the more we are becoming like Christ.

The same is true in our relationships with our children. As we choose to stay calm when they push our buttons or show them mercy when they make mistakes, we are practicing the character of Christ. Even our missteps can become places where God is present and active and can shape us. I take great comfort in these words of the Apostle Paul: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Ro. 8:28). I am changed a little bit—for the good—even by my mistakes.

Let’s carry this perspective a step further. If we believe God uses everything to shape us, to heighten our resemblance to His Son, then our sense of proportion about parenting is also transformed. The momentary messiness of raising kids (supermarket tantrums, overlooked school enrollments) need not equal long-term failure (that appearance on Oprah). God, who is ever active in our lives and our children’s lives, is bigger than that.

TRANSFORMED CHILDREN

Did you catch that last bit of truth? God is active in our children’s lives. He is shaping them just as He is shaping us: in the daily ups and downs of life—at school, in the living room, wherever.

Just as God created us with love, care, and a purpose (Psalm 139), so He created our children. They carry the same image of God that we all do. They are filled with the gifts, passions, dreams, and quirks God gave them, and God has a deep, intimate love for that customized package.

Sure, our children will make mistakes. They will falter. They will fail. And they will do all of this despite our best efforts as parents because they are human, complete with all the maddening willfulness that makes them, well, human. But throughout that process, God will love them and care for them and provide for them in ways we can’t begin to imitate.

That’s really what makes parenting such a blessing. We get to be present for the creation of a human being. There is no other relationship in which we are there from the very beginning. And as that child develops, we get to watch her discover who she is and what God has in store for her.

In those moments when I doubt God’s presence in our lives, I only need to look at the way my children are changing every day to be reminded that God is ever-active in their hearts. I watch my daughter help a hurt classmate or stick up for her brother. I was once moved to tears as my son carefully carried a cup of water across the lobby of our doctor’s office so that he could give it to his sick sister. And they are both blossoming in the presence of our new baby, showing gentleness and maturity I never knew were there. These are not gifts I have given them; these are expressions of the character God placed in them. They are the result of God’s hands forming them, shaping them, and changing them.

When we see God as present in the good and the bad, we can take each success and failure at face value. Our daily missteps no longer need to trip us up because we know that God is working with a far bigger picture, one that we can’t mess up. Parenting is no longer about what we have done right or wrong, but about what God is doing in our lives and the lives of our children. We are freed from fear to embrace the wonder and beauty of raising our children—those agents of God’s love and grace who enrich our lives.

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