Yesterday, I shared why I needed to rethink perfection before before I was able to give up my pursuit of it. I learned to define the opposite of perfection not as imperfection, and not as mediocre or ordinary or unimpressive. For me, it’s freedom.
I chose free as my word of the year in 2014, and that was a game-changer for me. (You can read more about that process here, here, and here.) Since then, I’ve made a point to look for the words free and freedom everywhere.
- When I hear a song that mentions freedom, I add it to the Spotify playlist I keep for that purpose.
- When I stumble on “free” while reading, I circle the word and mark the page with a post-it. (Or…I dog ear the page and try not to feel guilty about it.)
- In Evernote, I have a note titled, “Quotes about freedom and perfectionism.”
- I keep a Pinterest board full of images and quotes that remind me of what this pursuit of freedom is all about.
And as I read Scripture, I’m keeping track of every single passage and verse that talks about freedom. (Turns out, freedom is a theme in the Bible. It seems obvious now, but I never knew until I started looking.)
The truth is, the default position of my heart and mind is toward perfectionism. If left to atrophy, I always slide back toward striving, comparison, anxiety, and performance. I want to be on guard, so I fill my life with as many references to freedom as possible. It can take a lot of work and effort to break old habits, especially when they are patterns of thought and belief. I need all the help I can get.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”
In Deuteronomy, the Israelites are encouraged to remember God’s commands. Moses wrote,
“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates,” (Deut. 6:6-9).
I am on a quest for freedom, and I’m looking for the road signs wherever I can find them. I’m looking for clues, hints, and reminders. I’ve been amazed at where I find them and where God reveals them.
Did you think about it yesterday, how you define the opposite of perfection? Is it peace or joy or grace or rest? Whatever it might be, I bet if you open your eyes and start asking God to show you, you’ll find hints of it everywhere.
Back in March, I had the amazing opportunity to hear Ellie Holcomb lead worship at Hope Spoken. (And by “hear Ellie Holcomb lead worship,” what I mean is, sing along through tears for most of her set.) She shared about how easily her thoughts are derailed by lies: that she is not enough, or her mistakes are too terrible to be forgiven, or that she isn’t equipped for her calling. Ellie said that identifying the lies does very little good if we don’t actually replace them with truth.
I think we all understand, inherently, that perfection is an impossible standard. Duh, we might say. But…then what? This is what identifying our “opposite” word is all about; it’s not enough to want less perfectionism, but we also have to replace it with something better. Something true.
Do what you have to do, I say. Write it on the walls of your home. Scribble it on the bathroom mirror. Crank up the volume and sing the songs. (Dance if necessary.) Write it on your arm or your forehead or your doorframe. Whatever it takes. We’re in a fight, and these are our fightin’ words.
“The ultimate freedom we have as human beings is the power to select what we will allow our minds to dwell upon. It is in our thoughts that the first movements toward the renovation of the heart occur. Thoughts are the place where we can and must begin to change. There the light of God first begins to move upon us through the word of Christ, and there the divine Spirit begins to direct our will to God and his way.” –Dallas Willard
In the month of October, I’m sharing 31 ways to fight perfectionism. You can find links to all the posts in this series here (or by clicking the “31 Days” link in the top menu). Tomorrow, I’ll share why saying “I’m sorry” often reveals the ways I’m struggling with my perfectionist tendencies.