The Prison of Perfectionism

person in jailWhat is perfectionism?  Perfectionism is a belief system developed by an individual which leads them to believe that everyone should follow all rules (internal or external) perfectly; and anything below this level of performance is failure.  That’s my own definition—not Webster’s.  I’ve learned this definition just by watching and counseling Christians over the years, some of whom suffer from this malady more than what they would probably admit.  Christ told us in his word, “Be ye perfect, even as your father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).  Now, if you take that scripture out of its context, you can get really confused about how you should live your life.  You will create a prison for yourself.  One that will be very difficult to escape unless you come to certain realizations.  The first realization is that no one, no matter how faithful they are to God, is perfect.  The second realization is that on the average, those that claim to measure up to all Christian standards, usually have overlooked much bigger issues in their lives; therefore, it doesn’t pay to measure yourself against others.

I heard a man, who used to investigate criminals for a living say that when he looked at the facts of a case, and ran into coincidences, he didn’t ignore them.  He said “to ignore coincidence, after coincidence, is just plain stupid”.   One coincidence I’ve noticed that keeps popping up is that people that have made themselves perfectionists of religion strain at a gnat but will swallow a camel.    They will worry themselves and you about the smallest missteps, but miss the major problems in their own lives.  Jesus warned us about this type of thinking.  Worst of all, it’s not good for spiritual or personal growth.   Why?  A person of this ilk will be afraid to make mistakes and advance with the Spirit of God.  They will only do things that they consider safe and accepted by those looking on.  This is not the example we see in the scriptures.  The apostles and Jesus were very radical and moved with the Spirit of God, no matter how the “establishment” felt.

I was in this overly conscientious prison at one point in my life.  My child hood was chaotic, and both of my parents were perfectionists.  This disease was passed on to me.  When I became a Christian, this was not a helpful state of mind for me.  I was faithful to everything, and I mean everything. Very few could beat me in being faithful to the church; going to meetings, church services, visiting the sick, staying up at night with the sick,  passing out tracts, the whole bit.   My Pastor used to challenge us and say that we should ask ourselves, “If every member of the church were like me, what kind of church would the church be?”  Nice sentiment, and yes challenging, but that was not the best ideology for me.   I did genuinely care about serving God, and I did do these things out of concern and care, but there was a part of me that was so hard on myself that I tried to literally be the whole church and felt extreme guilt if I did not extend myself.  In retrospect, this was because I wanted to belong and be accepted, and the message I got was that the more you do and perform, the more accepted you would be by God—performance religion.

As God gave me more responsibility in the church, he actually helped me to pull away from that mindset.  I could see from the tower of the prison, others that were still in cells.  They bragged about how they were never late to church, thanked God for how perfectly they were training their children and how like the publican, they fasted twice a week, blah, blah blah, blah.   But I also noticed from my escape hatch the level of immaturity that existed with perfectionists that was often masked with scripture.

Perfectionism can be oppressive especially when you are going through your own trials and tribulations.  Do you find that you don’t want to let people know how badly you are hurting?  Do find yourself trying to pretend like you’re a super Christian with perfect children, perfect marriage, 2.5 manageable pets, and a white picket fence, never miss a Sunday school, attend every service, always volunteer when needed and complaining about those that don’t sacrifice their time to the same extent?  Do you find yourself shying away from people’s help because “I don’t need people’s help, I only need God?”; and although this sounds spiritual, you may not realize that God’s people are a body in Christ and He sends others to nurture and nourish you (Ephesians 4:16).  The hands and feet of His people are Him reaching out to help you directly.

I knew a woman that kept the manufacturer’s plastic on her living room carpet.  I’m not kidding.  She refused to take it off, for fear it might get dirty and lose its luster or value. I suppose she enjoyed it according to her definition, but she never appreciated the purpose of the carpet.  She did not realize that the value in the carpet was not just the look, but the comfort and pleasure people get from using it and keep their feet from hard floor underneath.  Most people I know that have carpet, like to sit on it, play on it, walk their feet across it and enjoy the feel, and if it gets dirty, that’s what they make steam cleaners for right?

Like this woman, people that are infected with perfectionism, become centered on preserving the unimportant. While they love the pristine appearance of their lives, they never really sink their toes into it, lay on it, play board games on it, or just enjoy it. Perfectionists tend to focus so much on the “carpet” that they unknowingly ignore the people walking on it and the lessons God wants them to learn. Most notably, they often miss one of the most important lessons of Christian life, which is being real and being flexible with the spirit of God.

God cares most that you love Him with a perfect heart.  (2 Chronicles 16:9; 1 Chronicles 28:9; Mark 12:30). He is not focused on your mistakes as much as He is the lessons that you learn from those mistakes.  Although not all perfectionists are hypocrites, Jesus warned the Pharisees about washing the outside of the cup and letting the weightier matters of mercy and justice fall by the wayside. (Luke11:39; Matthew 23:23).  I have seen this trend in people over and over again.  The perfect church attendance records, the flawlessly dressed children, the marriages that appear in order, Sunday school scriptures they can recite backwards, the neat, organized home; but many of them seem to fail in Life Lessons 101. They seem to become be completely unglued, and apologetic when embarrassing situations happen in their families or they try to cover up and hide anything that will mar the perfect picture.

All that energy spent looking good should be used to get to know their children, understand their spouses, and improve their walk with the Lord.  Unfortunately, the serious issues are often left buried for years, but never fear, reality eventually rises to the top.

If you find you’re in this mental prison in your trials and don’t want to face that you’ve lost your job, or that there are problems in your marriage or that your relationship with your children is strained because other people and other things seem to be more important than your family, take a moment and take inventory and unlock the cell door.  Christ will gladly hand you the key.

Are You Thinking Right?

ThinkstockPhotos-131580912Recently, I’ve been trying to eat healthier. I figure if I exchange bad habits for good ones, I’ll reach my “perfect” body weight. I’ve been listening to a lot of subliminal message audio books to help boost my thinking about healthy eating and exercise.  It’s not that I don’t have time to prep food and eat right (I decided I won’t use that excuse) but that I have to make time for what’s important. So, I decided to use these audio books to help boost my thinking.  Wow! The difference has been amazing.  God must know about this subliminal mind thing right?  The daily messages we receive in our subconscious affect our thinking.  I was never one to go for that sort of hoodoo stuff.  My husband would play all these “you can do it” tapes and never do it.  So I asked him, “why do you listen to that stuff, not that it’s not good and entertaining but is that really helping you?”  He said, “Actually, sweetheart it is. I know I’m not superman, but the things you have seen me accomplish is because I try hard to get all the negative messages out of my head”.  Now my husband has always seemed like such a positive person.  In fact, even though I know that everyone gets the “can’t do it” mantra in their brain from time to time,  my husband was the ” bounce back kid”.  He just never seemed to let problems get him down.

When you live with someone like that, you think, “either your born like that or you’re not”.  But I’ve discovered through this journey of trying to live a healthier life-style that how you think, and the messages you hear and internalize, have everything to do with your actions.  Since I’ve been on this journey,  I have gone out to eat twice (way down from the everyday thing). Each time, I can honestly tell you that the focus on the food was extremely different.  Even though I enjoyed the taste, I was not focused on my food at all.  Like many people, I connect food with relaxation, not as way to fuel my body.  If it didn’t taste absolutely great, I was like George Bush with broccoli. I felt I didn’t have to eat anything I didn’t feel like eating. When I focused on feeding my body for nourishment as well as enjoyment, my thinking changed.  I drank veggie juices because it was just good for me.  Even though I had done that before, I’d put agave and fruit in there, and plenty of it, because I had this horrible sweet tooth that had to be satisfied.

I said all that to quote this scripture Proverbs 23:7 “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (KJV).  The way a person thinks often determines their actions.  If I think I am not capable of running a business, pleasing my spouse or being a good parent, I will get this deep in my heart.  The scripture tells us “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23 (KJV).  I like this translation as well “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (NIV).  Everything you do.  If you get in your head that this trouble you’re going through right now will never end; that God is playing games with your life; that you cannot take one more bad thing happening to you or you’re going to snap, then you will feel extremely discouraged about your trials and tribulations. Have you ever just looked up at the sky, thrown your hands up and asked God, “Lord what is going on?!”  Why am I here at this place in my life?  I know God is faithful and will answer.   Bottom line–God cares about every aspect of our lives.  So you have to keep your mind straight to keep your heart straight. If you have to speak encouraging scriptures into your phone and play it back, do it!  Don’t be passive! Get the encouragement from God into your head.  We have so many distractions in our world today that we tend to underestimate the power of being alone with God, meditating on him and breathing Him in–and yes–into our subconscious; so that he’s always ruling our thoughts.  He has to be first in your thoughts for spiritual success.  If you haven’t been thinking right, do the work necessary to begin that process.  


Are you struggling with faith because your problems feel like they will never end?  Are you having trouble seeing the light at the end of the tunnel?  Do you need help with spiritual growth? Walk on Water gets to the root of why so many miss the life lessons that God is trying to teach.  Through a personal journal, thoughts, encouragement,  and biblical teaching, I want to bring to light that our journey with Christ as we learn our own humanity can be a beautiful thing.

Coming to Realizations

I’m realizing more and more that our backgrounds don’t have to dictate our outcome. I preached a message recently that called for a lot of self-examination on my part called, “What is your Name?” The idea was that Jacob had inherited so many bad traits from his mother’s side of the family, that he seemed doomed to be a conniving thief most of his life. God in his mercy did not leave Jacob with bad character. God made Jacob face himself and his deficiencies, and Jacob was humble enough to do the work necessary to change his name from Jacob “supplanter” to Isreal.”God has prevailed”.

Man-Praying-600x399Bad things happen to good people.  If you have any experience in life, you know that you can try your hardest to do things right and still make a mess. It took me a long time to learn that even though honesty is the best policy, life will still throw you a mud pie or two. Right now I’m on vacation and my kids are in the next room playing video games.  Like most parents I’m wondering how long I should let them play while I enjoy the freedom of being alone.  That’s the pretend game most parents play.  “How are you all doing in there?!”, we dutifully yell out to them.   “Fine”, they holler back;  and as long as the house isn’t burning down, we have glorious, to die for, alone time.

I’ll tell you more about my journey, but for now, let’s just say that after being lied to and used for the first half of my life, I’m in a good place for self-awareness.  I know what it feels like to make big mistakes and I know what it feels like to recover. In this blog, I plan to offer words,and thoughts of encouragement for those going through troubling times in their life. Everyone needs encouragement.  Sometimes just bible quotes and short thoughts, and sometimes I’ll write on life lessons.

I got saved (Born Again) in 1982.  So its been 33 years.   It is, absolutely,  the best thing that’s ever happened to me.  The second best thing is my husband and third my children.  The order of the second and the third gets mixed up though, depending on what drama is going on that particular day; but I love my family, and I love my walk with Christ.

I started this blog, because I wrote a book, ” How to Walk on Water: A Christian’s Survival Guide for Going Through Trials.   A long title, but accurate, nevertheless.  I take a deep look at the areas Christians struggle to maintain while they’re going through difficult times.  Many of us Christians forget that when we give our heart and life to God, he doesn’t send trouble to hurt us.  God is trying to make us better, deeper,  and closer to Him.  After many years of counseling other Christians, I wanted to write a book where a person could pick any chapter and receive something to meditate on and receive encouragement.  For many years I labored under the fallacy that once a person gets saved, God’s power and love fixes everything.  But I’ve come to realize, that this simply puts you in the Colosseum to fight the beasts, it doesn’t make them disappear.  In the end though, I’d rather have problems with God on my side, than have those same problems, and nowhere to turn.

I’m realizing more and more that our backgrounds don’t have to dictate our outcome. I preached a message recently that called for a lot of self-examination on my part called, “What is your Name?”  The idea was that Jacob had inherited so many bad traits from his mother’s side of the family, that he seemed doomed to be a conniving thief most of his life. God in his mercy did not leave Jacob with bad character. God made Jacob face himself and his deficiencies, and Jacob was humble enough to do the work necessary to change his name from Jacob “supplanter” to Isreal.”God has prevailed”.   God changed Jacob’s heart and his thinking.  While meditating on this message, God revealed to me my own inherited traits, and what I needed to do.  I was letting parts of my background dictate my outcome. I was allowing my weaknesses and low self-worth to dictate my life, and what God means for me to become. Even though I survived spiritual abuse, I had internalized the subtle put-downs, the cold-shouldered neglect, and the jealousies.  My husband always quoted Les Brown to me and said, ” “Honey, don’t let someone else’s opinion of you become your reality.” After years of him quoting this to me, I am finally getting his drift.  These are realizations I am holding near and dear to my heart at this point in my life and I’m finally getting the courage to ignore the noise and focus on God’s will, and it’s beautiful thing to be free.