Excuse Me? Did You Say No to ME?
Excuse me? Did I just hear you tell me "no" and expect me to listen? You donít know me very well. Do you? Iíll show you "no":
What I thought to be one of my strongest traits turned out to be one of my worst character flaws. Perfectionism -- It is a form of pride that was, next to Satan, one of my worst enemies. So difficult a lesson to learn, but God taught me that He can take what seems to be the worst in us and use it for our good. Even better than that, He can use it for HIS good.
Just an example of such a thing: I grew up with what seemed to be an invisible muzzle on my face. God made me this way! He did not curse me! Rather, He blessed me with this vivid and detailed imagination full of colorful wonder and poetic vision! And boy, oh boy, if you are in my midst when it all comes rolling out, youíre sure to understand why Mom invented that imaginary muzzle. Thank God for Faith Writers. But itís not just a venting place; itís a place where, as long as you arenít my mother, I can be allowed to bless you with what God GIFTED me with. Sorry, Mom. But the truth is the truth. You know I love you!
Back to perfectionism: Itís a childís, and many times a grown-upís way of finding acceptance. Itís a desperate search for love and the worst way to find it. Oh, you can find it all right. Itís just not the kind of love you really need. Itís popularity. Itís superficial. Itís temporary. Itís self gratifying, false love that leaves you emptier than if youíd never brought yourself that kind of attention in the first place. But, all for the good of those who love the Lord, it leaves you desperately hungry for REAL love... the kind of love you can only find in the arms of the One who calls Himself "Love." And blessed are those who hunger for they shall be filled.
Let me give you some examples of my own dealings with perfectionism. It's gonna sound an aweful lot like boasting, but bear with me a moment. I've a point yet to make. Perfectionism at its finest:
I wrote my first book in the third grade. I never made less than a 100 average on spelling tests. I had a 105 average in college algebra. I graduated, the 1st of 3 trips through college, with a 3.8 gpa. And I did all that while raising three kids and working full time. I was cheerleader in junior high, drum major in high school, and tried out for and made the drill team but didnít participate because Iíd also made drum major and couldnít do both. But I did it just to prove to myself that I could. I played A-team volleyball and basketball, all-star softball, and was the hool-a-hoop and tetherball champion of grade school. I mastered every single instrument in the band hall and held first chair clarinet all the way through junior high and high school.
(By the way, I give credit for the knowledge I gained as drum major for my ability to do dance choreography for our little dance ministry today... so not all was wasted.)
But the finest example I can remember of the stubborn pride behind perfectionism: My coach told me that my legs were too short to run a 440 at state... that I would have to take two strides for the other girls' every one stride just to keep up with them. Yes... there is a 4-foot trophy in the glass case at that high school that I give my 5-foot 1 1/2-inch tall self at least 1/4 credit for. The other three girls who won that Texas State Champion Girls' Mile Relay with me may or may not have been as proud as I was. An entire year of running 7 miles per day, 7 days per week is just proof that "No" is a good way to make me prove myself all the more. I believe Coach was sorry he didn't let me run that 440yd dash, because my final speed was faster than the first place winner's.
And all the while, I was extremely miserable because of situations that were completely out of my control, traumatic situations. My sister recently brought up some of those things to me. She, somehow, got it in her head that I was something special as a teen. She thought that I had it all going on. There was no way she could have known that I was self-destructing. But I was. And it got worse.
I was out on my own at the ripe age of 17. At age 19, I had a fantastic job and was making boo-koodles of money. I was moving up and I was moving up fast. I was on top of the world. At age 24, I had everything. I was married, the mother of 3 beautiful children, and I was successful. Then Daniel, my youngest, developed a seizure disorder and I had to stop working to take care of him. Leaving 2 or 3 days a week for the emergency room was just too much stress on my job. I took what Iíd earned in profit sharing and bought a home with it. My marriage to a physically/emotionally abusive spouse fell to pieces... of course.
I lost my home to him. I lost my children to him. I lost everything. I had no job, no home, no kids, no life. Thatís right... that great perfectionist and conqueror of hool-a-hoops hit rock bottom! Iím sure there were probably a few envious "friends" who thought I deserved it. Oh well. It seemed that no one could minister to my pain. But some ONE did. And that someone still ministers to me on a daily basis.
So, here I am. Still the perfectionist. But hey, Godís working on me. Be patient! My word processor says that "boo-koodles" and "hool-a-hoops" are misspelled and Iím leaving them that way anyway. Now THATíS progress! ;-) Seriously though, it has all been for my good. See, I found something at rock bottom that you just canít find when youíre on top of the world. Itís sure a shame that we have to crawl off in a pit to realize thereís no hope for us in finding what we hunger for until we come face-to-face with our Redeemer.
I know I have a long way to go. But something tells me that Godís going to take those character "flaws" of mine and use them to my advantage. And the reason? Well, simply because He loves me just like He created me. Otherwise, He wouldnít have created me the way He did. Besides, Heís One to answer pure desires of the heart. And my pure desire: Make me useful to You. I donít know how You can use this messed up, broken vessel, but here I am. Iím willing.
Now, if I can just learn to listen when He says "NO!" Maybe then I can save myself the trouble of a whole lot of running for a race thatís sure to get me nowhere fast. Hey, Mom... Donít you just wish Iíd have had that revelation about the word "No" a long time ago?
© Joyce Pool 06/19/04
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Oh, that I were to have the same confidence as you, dear Treava. Perhaps one day, I will be able to not have the terrible twinge in the pit of my stomach when I misspell a word or mislead myself down that road of self-perfectionism. You are an inspiration! Love, Nancy
I sent this article to my mother BEFORE posting it. Her response: "Hey, Mom... Donít you just wish Iíd have had that revelation about the word "No" a long time ago?" absolutely not !!! had you have found it back in the day....you would not be the person you are today I loved you then... I love you now and no matter what you do I just cannot stop and thats the person I am....... then and now. What an encouragement from the "muzzle maker"!!! lol... :)
This is great! I can't say I identify with your struggle with perfectionism, but I have a rough idea. The cool thing? We are all made perfect in Him. God bless you, your mother and your muzzle!
Hi Treava, with your wonderful winning nature, think of what an attribute you are and will be to God now that you have the time to be available. Perserverance is what gets the job done as you well know, and you sound like one who will get it done. Love and blessings, Sharon