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Posts tagged ‘perfectionism’

Your Family Voyage: Birth Order

SOURCE:  Excerpted from the book by P. Roger Hillerstrom/Your Family Voyage

The Value of When – Birth Order.  The timing of your entrance into your family has a profound impact on who you become.  This is the underlying assumption of the study of sibling position or birth order.

The study of sibling position revolves around the fact that families change as they grow.  The family responds to each child differently, depending on the family’s stage of development.  Since each child is treated uniquely in the context of the whole family system, the relationship between the child and the family as a whole develops uniquely.

Your birth order impacts virtually every area of your life:  career decisions, choice of spouse, how you respond to your children, what motivates or frustrates you, and how you spend your leisure time.

As a family grows, the number of relationships and possible interactions within the system changes dramatically.  For example, before the arrival of children the marriage relationship involves three interacting units – two individual “I’s” and one couple “we” relationship, or interaction.  When the first child is born, the number of units increases to seven – three individuals, three couples and one triangle.  With the addition of child number two, there are four individuals, six couples, four triangles, and a quadrangle, for a total of fifteen units.  By the time there is a fourth child, the number of interactions exceeds fifty.

Each child is born into a family situation different from that of the preceding sibling.  The family changes in many other ways as each child is added.  Mom and Dad have changed as parents.  They have modified their expectations, added skills, and increased or decreased tolerances.  The number of formal and informal roles within the family has increased, social expectations have changed, and financial needs (and possibly income) are different.

The Firstborn.  Most firstborn kids have a fairly tough time of it.  Being new to their responsibility, parents tend to have high expectations.  By the time children number two and number three come along, Mom and Dad have faced a little reality, and child number one has taken the edge off of their idealism.  Nevertheless, since everything child number one does is a “first” for the parents, their expectations for him or her tend to remain fairly high.

Firstborns often develop into a type of “assistant parent.”  Given the responsibility of being an example to the younger children, most firstborns fall into a pattern of making decisions, giving orders, teaching, protecting and correcting behavior.  They are leaders.  Oldest siblings tend to have fairly high expectations for themselves and are frequently self-critical.

Firstborns tend to develop two sets of personality traits, being either compliant and responsible or independent, assertive, and strong willed.  Compliant and responsible firstborns may become Mom and Dad’s “appendage”, having clear authority over younger siblings and carrying out orders.

Outside of the home, these individuals are viewed as ideal students and employees.  They have a strong need for approval, especially from authority figures.  As a result, they are cooperative, reliable, conscientious, and appreciated by their leaders and mentors.  Compliant firstborns also tend to be easily manipulated.  Assertiveness doesn’t come easily and they have a natural desire to please others, so it is fairly easy for others to take advantage of them.  As children they are given responsibility for siblings; as adults they continue the pattern by taking responsibility for others.  They are “doormats” around the office or the over-committed church member.

Even when over-committed and overloaded, it is extremely difficult for these compliant firstborns to disappoint others by backing out and slowing down.  Frequently they become quietly resentful and bitter.

Some compliant firstborns are unable to please their parents, typically because of unrealistic expectations placed on them.  When positive reinforcement is consistently missing in the home, the compliant firstborn often becomes the “frustrated failure.”  When this child can’t measure up to his parents’ standards, instead of working harder to please others, he or she gives up.  As an adult this individual is passive, unmotivated and chronically self-defeating.

The second personality common to firstborns is that of the “driver”, who is independent, assertive, and strong willed. Rather than waiting for leadership to be handed over to him or her, this child has learned to take it.  Directing and controlling others seem to come naturally.

As adults these individuals tend to be high achievers, extremely productive and energetic, outperforming their peers.  They are competitive and take pride in being able to do more in less time than anyone else.

While assertive firstborns are very successful professionally, they typically neglect relationships on their way to the top.  Their need for control and focus on performance often make them difficult to become close to emotionally.

Firstborns tend to be more perfectionistic then their siblings and are more apt to view their world in terms of black and white.  Firstborn children tend to be fairly inflexible when it comes to rules.  Definitions of right and wrong, and good and bad, appear more distinct for these people, and they are often intent on having others comply with their interpretation of the rules.

In a marriage relationship, firstborns tend to have a strong need for and expectation of control.  Firstborns typically have difficulty accepting criticism from their spouses.  If you are a firstborn, you would do well to lower the expectations you have for yourself.  By performing less and relaxing more, you will find that your relationships naturally deepen.

The Lastborn.  The role most familiar to lastborns is that of follower.  The youngest child typically accustomed to being cared for, watched over, and provided for by siblings as well as parents.  Lastborns can usually be characterized as performers or tagalongs.

A performer is a child who grows up being coddled, catered to, and focused on by the rest of the family.  As the center of attention for the family, this member develops into a “performer”.  He learns to be very aware of people’s responses to him and often becomes a very effective manipulator.  This child has the tendency to be spoiled, moody, and impulsive.

A lastborn child who grows up being minimized – ignored, or not taken seriously – may become a tagalong.  Mom and Dad may be very busy at this stage in their life, with their attention divided among the other children, jobs, hobbies, and social life.  The “little tagalong” may end up with whatever energy and attention is left over.

For this child, the familiar role is that of being directed and led.  These individuals grow up with a strong emotional dependence on others.  Decision-making is often difficult.  They tend to be agreeable and conforming.  They are most comfortable in settings where someone else in charge will give them clear direction.

In either one of these scenarios, youngest children are not treated as peers by anyone in the family.  They are not given as much responsibility and less maturity is expected of them.  Parental demands are focused elsewhere.

Lastborns tend to be more carefree and less prone to worry than their siblings.  They have less need to be in control and have less concern about detail.  They tend to be more social and have a high need for the attention of others.  Because of their thirst for attention, they respond well to encouragement.  A pep talk and a few “attaboys” motivate lastborns to achieve, though their efforts may be short-lived if the praise drops off.

In a marriage relationship, lastborns tend to bring out the dominant side of their partners, who are often firstborns.  The lastborn personality seems to invite a parenting response from others, though this may not be obvious before marriage.  The spontaneous, vivacious, playful characteristics of a lastborn that are attractive in courtship are also the impulsive, temperamental, irresponsible traits that drive a firstborn spouse crazy.

If you are a lastborn, beware of your tendency toward self-centeredness.

The Middle Child.  The designation of “middle child” applies to anyone born between the first and last child.  The middle child is the one with the fewest photos in the family album, and the most hand-me-down clothes in his wardrobe.  Like a wheel that doesn’t squeak, middle children are easy to overlook.

While the parents’ responses to the oldest and youngest kids tend to be fairly predictable, responses to middle children vary.  Where middle children “fit” will tend to be influenced primarily by other factors, particularly the number, ages, and gender of their siblings.

Personality development of the middle child is probably most strongly determined by the personality of the older sibling.  Because the middle position has no inherent uniqueness, these children need to seek out a special identity within the family.  Some middle children become competitors in order to earn a place of recognition in the family, while others are invisible children, unable to gain recognition.

The competitor feels he or she has to earn a place of recognition within the family.  Generally unable to successfully take over the role occupied by the firstborn sibling, this child develops other areas around which to develop an identity.  If the firstborn has found an area in which to excel, the second child will typically develop skills in some opposite area:

  • If the firstborn is rebellious, the second born will be compliant.
  • If the firstborn is an athlete, the second born will be a scholar or musician.
  • If the firstborn is social and outgoing, the second born will be quiet and introspective.
  • If the firstborn is structured and organized, the second born will be random and spontaneous.

The invisible child cannot find a place of recognition within the family.  For a number of possible reasons, he or she is not rewarded for success in any particular area.  This is the child who eventually gives up on success, because whatever attempts he has made have met with frustration and failure.

Whatever form their personalities take, middle children are usually the members who function most independently of the family.  They tend to be more emotionally distant than other family members and their primary source of emotional support generally comes from outside the family, usually from their peers.

One experience universal to all middle children is that of having a comfortable role taken from them.  All middle children were at one point the lastborn.  The attention naturally showered on the baby of the family once belonged to them, until younger brother or sister came along.

In a marriage relationship, middle children can be hard to get close to emotionally.  Since these people naturally adapt to those around them, it may be difficult to determine what middle children actually feel.  Uncomfortable with conflict or confrontation, they may withdraw in silence rather than face these problems directly.  Middle children may passively choose to live with hurt and offense rather than “make waves”.

The Only Child.  Only children often become an interesting blend of traits common in both the firstborn and lastborn children.  Their behavior, perspectives, and reactions are typical of firstborns, but emotionally they are very similar to lastborn children.

Since their parent’s expectations are usually high, as they are for firstborn children, only children tend to be performers and high achievers.  They have a tendency toward perfectionism, and their verbal skills are usually well above average.  These are all characteristics shared with firstborn children.

The other side of the coin is that only children spend their formative years being the “main event” of their parents’ lives.  Similar to the experience of many lastborn children, being the focus of attention often becomes part of the only child’s expectations of life.

The personality of the only child may take on two general directions, that of treasured only or structured only, depending on the circumstances of birth.

The treasured only is the only child whose parents had a desire for more children but for one reason or another were able to have only one.  The focus of attention, time, and energy, often results in a child who may have difficulty sharing the spotlight with others and who is seen as being spoiled or self-centered.

The structured child is the child whose parents had only one child because they chose to have only one child.  They planned their family this way and stuck to their plan.  In any case, these parents are generally well-organized, self-disciplined planners.  The household tends to be a fairly structured, disciplined home and child develops in accord with this atmosphere.  This family often expects the child to be a miniature adult, so the child tends to behave maturely but feels uncomfortable among peers.

In either case, the only child grows up relating closely with adults rather than other children.  He or she may not learn to interact comfortably with peers, though feeling very at ease with authority figures.  Only children tend to be less spontaneous and playful than other children, and while their verbal skills are usually very good, they may be the least talkative in a group.  They often have difficulty developing close relationships and frequently describe themselves as lonely.  As these discomforts are generally kept inside, only children appear to cope fairly well in life.  As adults they frequently appear very confident and self-assured in social situations, but inwardly they feel vaguely uncomfortable, insecure and ill at ease.

In a marriage relationship, only children often struggle to cope with the idiosyncrasies of another personality.  Normal mood changes in their partners are especially frustrating and confusing for only children.  While they may deeply love, care for, and enjoy their partners, only children tend to be most comfortable when alone.

Twins.  The placement of twins in birth order is more complex than that of single birth children.  For example, in twins born to a family with an older sibling, the older twin will develop characteristics of a second-born and younger twin will take on the role of the third born sibling.  Most twins know which of them was born first.  This may indicate the family’s tendency to respond to them according to their birth order and reinforce these characteristics.  Twins as a unit generally have a very special place in the family – twins are special, and they usually know it.

When a child is born after a childless gap of six years or more, the birth order usually starts over.  Because of their age difference, they will probably never spend much time with each other.

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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.”

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.

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!

My Value Doesn’t Equal What I Do

SOURCE:  Brad Rymer/Living Free

“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.

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!”

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 . . .

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These thoughts were drawn from …


Where is the Image of God in You?
by Brad Rymer.

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

The Deceitfulness of Self-Hatred

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

I was speaking at a large women’s event in Texas. During the break, a woman asked if she could speak with me.

“I need to know if there is hope for me,” she asked.  “I’m a narcissist and from what I’ve read on-line, there is little hope for me to ever get better.”

Curious, I asked her a few more questions about what led her to think she was a narcissist.  She said, “I’m selfish and self-centered.”

“Give me a few examples of what you mean,” I asked, wanting to see where she was going.

“I don’t want to babysit my grandchildren like my daughter wants me to,” she said.  “I don’t always want to put other people’s needs first. I try, but I end up feeling resentful.”

By now tears were streaming down her face and it was obvious she was distressed exposing her very human character flaws.

This woman’s problem wasn’t excessive self-love and desire for admiration (which narcissists never notice about themselves anyway), but rather destructive shame and self-hatred. In our brief conversation I learned that she lived by an internal script that dictated that she should be better than she was. She failed to live up to her idealized image of herself as a selfless person and after numerous attempts at change, she felt hopeless.

People who are perfectionists may not demand perfection in every area of their lives and often have a hard time admitting that they think they should be perfect, but deep down that’s what they crave. And when they fail to live up to their own idealized standards, they grieve deeply. Their internal shame, self-hatred, and self-reproach can be lethal.

These individuals rarely feel happy because although they might achieve a moment of perfection, it’s entirely unsustainable. Eventually they mess up, can’t do something, aren’t all-knowing, fail, make a mistake, or put their own needs or desires ahead of someone else’s.

This woman was not my client and we weren’t in a session, but I had something to offer her in that moment that provided a real solution to her pain. I had the privilege to show this hurting woman a glimpse of what God is like and surprise her by the good news of the gospel of Christ.

He is the answer to this woman’s pain because he gives her what she cannot give herself. Real forgiveness, radical acceptance, grace, peace, hope, love, and true truth.

What I said to that woman at the conference was something similar to what Jesus said to the rich young ruler who asked if he was good enough to inherit eternal life. (See Luke 18:18-27 for the story).

I pulled her to the side, wrapped my arms around her and whispered, “You could never do enough, love enough, give enough, or be selfless enough to earn God’s forgiveness or his love. It’s not up to you. It is a gift. Now go, and thank and love the giver.”

Later on in the day she caught my eye and her countenance was transformed. She believed God and found hope.

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