BCC Staff Note: You’re reading Part 3 of a three-part BCC Grace & Truth blog mini-series by Amy Baker on perfectionism. You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here. These posts are adapted by the author from Picture Perfect: When Life Doesn’t Line Up. Copyright © 2014 by Amy Baker. Used by permission of New Growth Press.
Taylor and the Rest of Us
In the two previous posts, we’ve been focusing on Taylor, a perfectionist whose life is often filled with stress and frustration as a result of the expectations she has for herself and others. Think for a moment now about what you really want on a day-by-day basis. If, like Taylor and me, your heart and mind are often ruled by self-focused desires, it won’t be long until you experience frustration, fear of failure, unrelenting pressure, and guilt. It won’t be long until you seek to control others to get them to live according to your expectations. It won’t be long until you live with a sense of dread that just around the next corner someone will discover you are a fraud; you’re not really as put together as everyone believes you are. These are heavy burdens.
Taylor wants things done right because in her heart she believes this will bring her satisfaction. But Taylor has been deceived into believing that the perfection she is seeking will bring happiness. Taylor has been lured into believing that performance leads to perfection and that performance-based perfection leads to happiness and satisfaction. These deceits are advertised regularly by the world around her promoting the perfect body, the perfect diet, the perfect job, the perfect investment, the perfect house, the perfect family, the perfect life. But the reason they resonate with Taylor is that she wants to believe them. She wants to believe that if she works hard enough she can attain perfection. She wants to believe that performing well will remove her anxiety and fear. She wants a life with no hassles or trials and she believes being perfect will fulfill this desire.
True, there have been brief moments of satisfaction. Occasions of recognition have brought fleeting good moods, but these have inevitably been followed by pressure to do more and fear of being exposed as imperfect. For the perfectionist, achievement results in demands for greater achievement. Not a moment should be wasted in resting on your laurels or celebrating victory. There is always the next game to win, the next project to perform, the next expectation to meet.
And the greater the recognition, the greater the fear of being exposed. The more people point to you as a model to follow, the higher the potential for humiliation when you don’t live up to the exalted status conferred on you. Perfectionism is a harsh master and serving this master is frightening and exhausting.
Exchanging a Heavy Burden for a Light One
A life ruled by our own desires and shaped by what the world tells us is perfection eventually becomes an exhausting life full of disappointment and frustration. In contrast, how radically different it is when the one true Lord rules our lives. When the true Lord rules our lives, we find that his rule is very different. This ruler invites you to come to him and have rest. Listen to his kind invitation in Matthew 11:28–30:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Does this seem attractive to you? Do you feel worn out trying to meet all the demands of perfectionism? Do the anxieties, pressures, and fears that come with perfectionism keep you in turmoil, your mind always churning? Would you enjoy rest for your soul, a relief from the churning?
Jesus promises his yoke is easy, his burden is light. How can he do this? He did it by taking the crushing burden of our failure on himself and inviting us to turn to him in trust and repentance. As we turn to him, he offers us his perfection—his righteous record with no mistakes or flaws. With his perfection as our foundation, he then equips us to live with a whole different mindset. Different things become important to us. We develop different goals and desires. We pursue different agendas.
Be advised, the old desires, fears, anxieties, and goals will still tempt you to rely on them but in Christ they no longer have the power to rule you. Woohoo! All those tensions that Taylor has lived with for years, no longer have to have mastery over her. There can be peace.
Taylor needs a different way. Her striving for perfection has gone badly wrong—led by a heart that has been blinded by the promises of false gods. Her striving for perfection has brought tension into almost all of her relationships. Her striving for perfection has resulted in tremendous pressure to do better and better. Taylor has a love/hate affair with perfectionism, and she needs a better way.
Christ offers a better way. He makes incredible promises that only he can deliver. The life he promotes is radical. It’s restful. It’s stunningly beautiful. It’s available to Taylor and to us.
Join the Conversation
How can you receive and rest in the “light burden” of Christ?