Many of us have struggled with faulty, broken record type feedback in our minds. Those well-worn grooves produce a background symphony of voices whispering lies this fallen world would have us believe. In my own life I’ve found it difficult to sort out the noise, becoming so accustomed to the scratching, piercing sound of the needle falling into the cacophony of deceit until it just seemed normal.
As one who has struggled for most of my life as a perfectionist, I know firsthand how difficult it is to recognize the lies and press “stop.” One of the problems those of us with perfectionistic tendencies face is a society that celebrates the pursuit of perfection. Teachers, parents, supervisors and coworkers often inadvertently or overtly praise, encourage, celebrate or reward the perfectionist's drive to keep going until perfection is attained.
I still remember when a dear friend loved me enough to risk our relationship by telling me that my relentless drive to perfection was a sin. The Apostle Paul reminds us in the third chapter of his letter to the Romans that it is through faith in Christ Jesus we are justified, not in our works. However, the head knowledge of being perfected only through Christ in me and the default settings of my consciousness whispering that only my perfection would earn me the right to be loved, were constantly at war. I sought the wisdom of a Christian counselor to help me work through my issues and rid myself of the chains that bound me.
One point that was brought up over and over again was the need for me to go back and “record” over the voices from my past to create a new symphony. In other words, talk to, nurture and care for “little girl me.” To say I struggled with this would be a gross understatement! It felt silly. It felt ungrateful since it seemed as if I were rejecting the best efforts of my parents to nurture me. I couldn’t do it.
In His infinite wisdom and goodness, God rescued me and set my feet on solid ground in His perfect timing. You see, one of my boys also had strong perfectionistic tendencies. Oh how that child frustrated me! How could he, with parents who celebrated effort over results at all times, fly into fits of despair when his first efforts weren’t perfect? Why did he insist on erasing kindergarten attempts at writing his letters until his work was marred by numerous holes from the abuse? From what storehouse of knowledge could I find words to comfort and assure my son? For a time, all I knew was that I was failing at the most important job ever entrusted to me. I couldn’t cure my baby.
“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” Psalm 40:2
It’s still a mystery to me why, after all I know to be true, my first instinct was not to fall down on my knees and cry out to my Lord and Savior. But our God is a patient Father, true to His Word, He heard the groans of my heart I couldn’t articulate and spoke words of healing. And prayers whispered with my son, on behalf of my son, and over my son also became words for me, for the example I set, for the healing I also needed. Learning to nurture my boy with perfectionistic tendencies taught me to nurture myself by laying it all at the cross.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” is a balm first for my own thirsty soul and then for my son’s. Ephesians 2:8-9
For anyone struggling with parenting a child with personality traits uncomfortably similar to your own, it is my fervent prayer that you find healing at the cross. Pour it out to the One who gave His life to set us captives free. Recognize and give thanks for the wisdom of the Father who has given you the precious gift of a child to help you speak to the wounded child trapped within you. His mercies are endless!
Director of Children's Ministries