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Imperfect Perfectionists



Welcoming My Humanity


I moved out of my family home several times, returning when life became too hard and I was unable to work. But I struggled with my relationships at home. Unspoken hurts seemed to dominate my every thought; resentment built upon every little slight, every perceived or real insult.

 

After a conversation with a friend convinced me I was asking too little of the Lord, I asked him to fill my need: provide me a home, a place of safety and refuge. Not even a week later, a family was open to renting me a room at a lower rate. A desperate prayer answered. I needed space and the Lord provided.

 

The Lord used this home to bless me in a way I did not expect. He taught me a most important lesson, one that brought about greater peace and provided my restless heart refuge:

I am human.

And that is a good thing.

 

This lesson came about in unexpected ways.

 

I moved into my new place and I recognized immediately that something was different in their home. They saw each other differently. They approached conflict differently. They held space for each person to be themselves fully. But most eye-opening was how they apologized to one another, not just the kids to each other, but the parents to the kids.


They apologized to me as well.

 

I remember the first time the mom apologized to me- she had made an assumption about why I was doing something and had reacted poorly. She came, knocked on my door, and apologized. She didn’t accept my “It’s fine, it’s not a big deal.” She invited me to allow her to take responsibility for her actions. She asked for forgiveness, not to sweep the offense under the rug.

 

How healing was it to witness parents apologizing to their children? How long had I longed for that same thing in my own family? Fortunately, their family way of reconciliation was only the beginning of my heart awakening to the reality of humanity; they called me on to recognize my own humanity through my own failures to love and the expectations I placed on others (and myself).


 

I babysat their kids one night., having a particularly rough night with one of them, a little six year old girl. I lost my temper with her multiple times, yelling at her; I felt awful but didn’t apologize that night. It weighed on my heart throughout the next day.

 

This little girl was just a child who was struggling to listen. She was struggling to make her needs known in a healthy manner. It was I, as the adult, who bore the responsibility of helping her to regulate her emotions and regulating my own. I was meant to be a guide, a guardian to this little girl. Instead, I expected her to have the maturity of an adult. 


It took a full 24 hours before I worked up the courage to talk to her and apologize. I could see in her eyes that it mattered. She hadn’t forgotten my anger and, although my apology hadn’t undone my anger the night before, it worked to repair the relationship. She smiled. We laughed together.


Perfectionism lies to me...it whispered to me that I will finally be enough when I prove to the world that I need nothing, including mercy.

Perfectionism lies to me, telling me it is possible to be above all reproach and therefore never feel the shame of not being enough. Perfectionism whispered to me that I will finally be enough, I will finally be loved, when I prove to the world that I need nothing, including mercy; perfectionism promised me safety while wrapping a noose around my neck. Admitting failure was now too costly. Why? Because now, when I showed myself to be imperfect, I lost everything I built my life on. I felt condemned to being unloved, worthless, and never good enough for all of eternity.

 

With perfectionism, we lose everything. We reject any part of us that reminds us of our humanity. We become a shell of ourselves and other’s faults touch our hidden shame, leading to constant judgment and condemnation of others. We are imprisoned.

 

But friends, imperfection is a universal experience.

 

Perfectionism provides no safety that acceptance cannot provide. When I am freed from the burden of perfectionism, I am allowed to falter without damning myself to being unloved for eternity. I am allowed to apologize for how I’ve harmed others because I am no longer defined by what I do; instead, I am allowed to embrace every part of my wounded heart just as the Lord does. I can now embrace the parts of myself that seemed too dark, too unlovable, including memories I’d much rather forget.

 

I can allow others to be human and no longer take everything personally because people’s faults now belong to them, just as my faults belong to me. I can give and receive mercy. I can walk my own journey without fearing what other’s may think.

 

The wholeness of life opens to me as I embrace the humanity of my own heart. And that my friends, is worth making a hundred apologies, even if they are only to myself for the expectations I placed on my beautiful heart.

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