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I grew up a young perfectionist.
A musician. An only child. A pastor’s kid.
Any one of those last three things can apply pressure to a perfectionist – on top of being a perfectionist.
Everything had to be “just-so” for me to be ok with the world.
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Wake up call
I became the church pianist at the ripe old age of 12 (by default- remember, I was the pastor’s kid).
Talk about freaking out.
The very first Sunday I played in church, the sustain pedal broke right during the first song.
Choppy music, anyone?
That freaked me out. I sweated all through the song service.
As time passed, I finally learned how to play all the hymns in the key of C Major (in layman’s terms, that means no sharps or flats).
But it wasn’t good enough. (Not for me.)
So, I graduated to flats. First one, then two, then my focus was sharps. I had a method to my madness.
Too big for my britches
Fast forward a few years. I went to college, got my BA in music/piano and learned to play all the sharps and flats.
One Sunday as I played a hymn intro, the song leader didn’t start the at the right part. The congregation faltered, I stopped playing, and he chuckled, “Can we try that again?”
And I freaked out.
I got so upset that I exited stage left to the nursery to vent to my BFF.
I told her all about my embarrassment, and that I was super frustrated because it wasn’t the first time and it certainly wouldn’t be the last.
Do you know what she said to me?
“My daughter was in a car accident last night.”
Talk about perspective.
Sad thing is, I wondered if she’d even heard what I’d just told her – my whole rant all about how the music wasn’t what it should be at church and everyone depended on me to keep it together and if I didn’t, the whole world knew about it.
A perfectionist’s prayer
“Lord, change me.
Change my vision from near (read: “self”) sighted-ness to far sighted-ness (read: “others”).
Channel my perfectionistic tendencies into people serving tendencies, and let me see to those details with my microscopic eye.
Make me realize that people aren't interruptions, they're divine appointments - sent from You to change me. Click To Tweet
Oh God, don’t let this life be all about me. For what a waste that would be.
The lens of change
And God did change me.
Oh don’t misunderstand, girlfriend, I am still a perfectionist.
But God has a way of sending us just what we need in life when we pray that prayer for far sightedness.
- He gave me a husband that loves people, sees other’s needs, and changes plans on a dime.
All that’ll do it. Especially that last part (gasp). Plan?
Nothing is set in stone anymore.
- He gave me four kids. I only asked for three (I had that all planned out too), but God said,
“You know what, you need to learn a little bit more flexibility”.
And now, I’m a middle-aged perfectionist.
Do I still get my feathers ruffled at the piano?
Sometimes. But not near as often as I used to – I recognize the symptoms, send up a quick prayer, and do an attitude adjustment.
I know this is all about God and nothing about me.
Do I get upset when things don’t go according to my plan?
Not too much. (Notice I am still claiming the title of perfectionist, so at least I know my vices!)
God can change a perfectionist. He softens us, molds us. Click To Tweet
There are people dying without the Lord.
Human trafficking is a real thing.
Kids are abused, babies aborted, and families are being torn apart.
Lord, keep on changing me. Let me magnify Your likeness, and not my own.
Because Your plan is the only thing that’s important in this short life I’ve got.
Perfectionistic mom alert
Do the toys have to be all lined up before you can sleep at night?
Do you get a twitch in your eye every time you find the wrong toys have been assembled together instead of in their proper bins?
When the kids carry out their chores, do you cringe because it’s not done exactly as you would like (aka the towels folded the wrong way and shoved in the linen closet or the toothbrush container is situated to the right of the sink instead of the left)?
It’s ok to desire order. Or whatever it is you fixate on.
The thing about perfectionists is, they’re not always picky about what you think they would be picky about.
We’re a very odd breed.
But be oh-so-very-careful as to not to crush your child’s spirit if he doesn’t complete a task to your liking or he develops some other characteristic that you may deem as an “odd quirk”.
Yes, patiently teach.
But also – learn to let it go.
Remember – God’s ways are so far above our own that we cannot comprehend them.
He still chooses us do His work. He's very gracious like that. Click To Tweet
One more thing: when the kids do their chores, put on some fun music and work alongside them so they know it doesn’t have to be drudgery.
I did this with my kids and even today I’ll put on Michael Buble or Christmas music or something wild and crazy when I’m powering through my list.
1. Patiently teach.
2. Let it go.
3. Make it fun.
Are you a perfectionist too? How have you learned to deal with your tendencies and lean upon the Lord for His plan?
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” ~Ephesians 4-10 ESV
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Beautiful! I was such an expert on kids until I had them. And such an expert on what the perfect mom should look like until I became one. And had I not experienced years of chronic illness, I wouldn’t understand how powerful grace is.
He does change us. Sometimes even when we don’t know we need changing 🙂
Yeah girl, me too. Thought I’d never have a brat NOR a strong-willed child. AHEM.
I’m so glad He’s patient with us, aren’t you? Grace, grace, God’s grace!
Becky Mott says
Hey, Ruthie! The Lord used a combination of your ‘perfectionist’ post and some pre-translation proofreading of conference notes to touch me deeply. I’m going to continue to need His grace to move past some unresolved confusions of the past, but it really, really helped to be reminded that “There are people dying without the Lord. Human trafficking is a real thing. Kids are abused, babies aborted, and families are being torn apart.”
Last week He convicted me to pray for those who ‘need to be set straight’ on a fact or two (or twenty instead of planning what I’d say if given the chance).
Last night it was the conviction that there are so many ‘bigger’ issues to bring before the Lord than ancient misunderstandings. Not that I can’t bring those to Him, but they’re taking up a ridiculously disproportionate amount of my thoughts and prayers. He is perfect and He allows me to not only lay ‘my’ imperfect world at His feet, but the very real needs of the rest of the world, too.
He is sooooo good to convict, correct, grace, and guide. Thanks for being part of the process!!!!
Oh Becky, I hear you on this! So well, I know how you feel. It’s so easy to get side tracked with the list and the hurt. I love hearing from you and being a part of your ministry. It’s so wonderful to reconnect! I will be praying for you in this need. You can be sure! Thanks so much for your very sweet comment, friend! Much love!
Becky Mott says
Wonderful, indeed! He is good!
Ruthie, I can relate definitely to the perfectionism because I have a hubby who is a first born Pastor son, so I can tell you first hand of how perfectionism affects those around them. It is a struggle, but God wants to us to exchange our need to be perfect for His GRACE! I love what you said, “He still chooses us do His work. He’s very gracious like that.” Amen sister! Thanks again for such a beautifully Christ inspired post! Many Blessings 🙂
Johanna, you have blessed me so many times. I’m so thankful for you and your gift of encouragement! And yes, being a first born, a pastor’s kid, and a perfectionist can really do a number on a person! I’m so thankful for His grace, it is sufficient. I’m glad we were on the same page this week – I’ll be sharing your post tomorrow!
Yep. Another perfectionist mom, here. That is one thing I seriously pray about: communicating acceptance and affirmation to my kids. I have a super creative daughter who’s a “slap it together, just get it done quick” kind of gal, and it is always so hard for me to resist making, ahem, suggestions. I’m learning to keep my mouth shut. Like last night when she decided to MAKE UP a recipe for pumpkin spice latte muffins, and I looked at it and I KNEW she didn’t have enough flour. But mentioning it would make her mad, so I said nothing. Muffins fell in the oven. She asked why, and then I told her. Oh, and she put ground coffee in the batter instead of making strong coffee and adding it as a liquid. I kept my lip zipped on that one. Sorry to write a book here, but you have me chuckling.
Oh Betsy HAHAHAHA!!! Wow that is super funny and yet for a perfectionistic mom also super frustrating. But you can look at it this way – at least she takes an interest in cooking! (I had one that didn’t, so that was a struggle too – I had a hard time as a perfectionistic mom and cook with the fact that she wouldn’t even try and it was like pulling teeth to get her in the kitchen.) I’m so glad you shared this experience with me! Ground coffee in the muffins LOL 😉
Jeanne Takenaka says
Oh girl, you’re speaking to my perfectionist’s heart. Oy. I’m better than I used to be, but I still struggle sometimes. As my boys grow older, I’m giving them more choices, and learning to live with the mistakes they sometimes make. When they do a chore not up to my snuff, I evaluate the bigger picture . . . were they really trying, or being lazy? Does it need to be re-done or let go? Heart attitudes, other things going on in the day, these help me evaluate whether or not to have them (or me) re-do something. I’m learning that when I can let perfectionism go, my heart is a lot more at peace, and I’m more at peace with my boys.
GREAT post today!
You know, in my head I think I’ll always be a perfectionist, but I did the same as you – as I aged, time softened me a bit, and I learned that it really did not matter that the towels weren’t folded as neatly as I’d do it, as long as they were put away. Same with dishes, and everything else. You’re onto something there with the bigger picture. We don’t want them to get by with laziness or reinforce that. But we also don’t want to quench a spirit when it’s done with good intentions.
Blessings to you, friend, as you rear those boys to men!
Oh, friend, from one perfectionist’s heart to another, thank you for addressing this issue, particularly when it comes to parenting. I’ll never forget the time when our middle boy quietly commented, “Mom, sometimes I think you expect me to be perfect.” I cried and cried because I knew what that pressure felt like, and it broke my heart that I had added to his burden in that way. I know perfectionism is something I will always struggle with – it’s my attempt at control, especially when things feel chaotic – but thank God for the promise of progress (Phil. 1:6)! He’s definitely helped me to gentle my ways, especially when dealing with that particular child. Excellent post!!
Wow what a sweet word of encouragement, Jen (if you’re really Jen today and not Ruthie or…well..you know)! I can’t tell you how I’ve wrestled with this – and still do, yet I’m learning to forgive myself. No one places more irrational burdens or guilt on the perfectionist like the perfectionist himself. 😉 But the good news is – we are aware of the problem, we are learning to let go, and seeking God’s direct guidance on our movements. Thanks so much for reading, now you’ve brought my attention to this post and reminded me it’s time to give the pin a facelift!!! LOL! <3