There are many days when I fret and worry about all the things on my to-do list. I wonder when I would have time to get it all done. Twenty-four hours in a day just doesn’t seem like enough time. Other days I beat myself up for small mistakes. A harsh word, a forgetful moment, a small mishap. Thoughts of failure marched through my head. I wonder why I am so incompetent.
While these two scenarios look different, for me they both boil down to the same thing – perfectionism. According to Oxford, perfectionism is a “a refusal to accept any standard short of perfection.” The world teaches us we have to do everything right, that we cannot fall short, and that weaknesses aren’t acceptable.
We also have the enemy whispering in our ear, reminding us that we are not good enough, not strong enough, not smart enough, and just plain not enough. We easily accept his lies and think badly about ourselves. And sometimes, in an attempt to feel better about ourselves, we work harder, pushing ourselves beyond our limits.
We have to be careful in this area of perfectionism because it could easily evolve into working for our righteousness. When we check off everything on our to-do lists, it makes us feel accomplished. When we succeed at something, we seek approval and recognition from ourselves, from others, and from God. We believe our achievement will gain our acceptance. And the messages we receive from the world seem to agree with this theory,
On the flip side, when we fall short, we feel weak and useless. We believe due to our lack of performance, others won’t love us and accept us. So we push ourselves even more to get back on top. The enemy is all too happy when we fall into this trap. If we keep pushing ourselves, we will lose sight of our true identity.
When we see this issue stirring in our lives, it would be helpful to remind ourselves of Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:8-9, “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.”
But that’s not all. In 2 Corinthians 5:21, Paul also said, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
And another verse to keep in mind also comes from one of Paul’s letters. In Romans 8:1, it says, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
I believe Paul is one who rested in the security that Jesus offers, without the need to strive or to prove himself. Before Paul was converted, he did terrible things against Christians, imprisoning them and not thinking twice about their deaths. But one day, Jesus appeared to him and he was instantly a changed man. If anyone felt like they had to prove themselves, I would think Paul would be first in line. But he wasn’t. Yes, he worked hard, out of his love and devotion to Jesus. But he didn’t work to gain approval. He knew he was already accepted and loved by His Lord and Savior.
If this is an area that you struggle with, take one (or all three) of the verses above and tuck it into your heart today. We are already righteous, thanks to Jesus. We don’t have to be perfect, we don’t have to get everything right, we don’t have to beat ourselves up for small mishaps, we don’t have to walk around with guilt on our shoulders for our mistakes and regrets, and we don’t have to work to earn God’s love. We are already loved, accepted, approved of, and chosen children of God. As you remind yourself of these truths, I pray you find a new sense of freedom. Extend grace to yourself, as you rest in the loving arms of Jesus.
© 2021 Bridget A. Thomas