Want to Destroy Your Family? Be a Perfectionist
This week I'm happy to have as my guest Dani Ross. She's a wife and a mother of three young boys living in Flower Mound, Texas, pursuing a double masters degree at Dallas Theological Seminary in Christian Leadership and Systematic Theology:
I began my journey as a mom like most, staring into my baby’s expectant eyes with great anticipation for a sweet, sweet life to come. I was ready to tackle the wild, unknown world of parenting in a life I had preplanned. Expertly researched. The years of comparison with those who had come before me provided me with a nice tidy list of “I’ll nevers” kept in my back pocket.
Top of the list, I’ll never formula-feed my baby. Number one without question. Only lazy moms would use expensive, processed formula to nourish their new born. Next, my baby will never sleep with us. Why? Because those babies become needy and too dependent, and nobody wants a needy child. Now somewhere down the list was, I’ll never make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner, I’ll never sign my kids up for year-round sports, and my most well-known never, my kids will never run around in their underwear!
It was only a matter of, well, moments after the birth of my first son, however, before I realized my body could not do what my list had arrogantly demanded. Enter in the bottle and that powdered formula. And to my surprise, it was exactly what I needed to provide for my baby boy. And yet . . . a wave of disappointment and shame. It all flooded in, and I sat accused of my failure as a mom only minutes into motherhood. I ignorantly decided that was the first and the last of the “nevers" I'd cross off.
When I received the third comment out of about 100 to come on Instagram, “someone is always in underwear!” I realized my whole list didn’t make much sense any more.
I should have known better. We are warned of the dangers of “nevers.” James writes, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into this or that town and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.’ You do not know about tomorrow. What is your life like? For you are a puff of smoke that appears for a short time and then vanishes. You ought to say instead, ‘If the Lord is willing, then we will live and do this or that.’ But as it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil” (Jas. 4:13–16).
Parenting lists aren’t the only things we carry.
Our “nevers” become personal blinders, guardrails, and walls that give us a false sense of safety. I knew I would never survive raising two boys 15 months apart. I knew I would never have another baby. Never move away from my family. Never be capable of going back to school. I said never because saying yes was too scary. It meant my life didn’t look like everyone else’s, or turn out the way others thought it should. It also could mean failure.
Most of us try to build protection against these fears. But in doing so, we no longer walk in faith in the unseen, but rely on safe choices we have carefully pre-crafted. Yet I have learned that my disappointment in myself is not God’s disappointment. My failure is always there, pointing to death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the very Son of God. It is in his life that we stand as new creations in Christ, made alive to live abundantly.
I was so blind to the arrogance of my comparison and rules. Being a wife and a mom of three boys—not to mention a daughter, a sister, a friend—I could no longer find safety in my prideful attempts to measure up. I crumbled underneath the weight of it all. So I threw out that wrinkled list of perfect parenting guidelines and took off my blinders and surrendered to God’s plan that is his perfect design for me.
How can I remain arrogant? Our Creator God has gifted me with faith, and newness of life. So why try to earn perfection? I have been created to flourish in the plans he has already prepared for me. Why would I want any other plans?
As my three boys have grown, as I have grown, the bitter taste of that perfectionism pie has become less of a constant in my life since I’ve stopped saying “I’ll never!” and started asking “What’s next?”
“I’ll never. . .”
What Ms. Glahn has to say about "i'll never. . ." is so true in my life too. The moment I uttered those words about my own actions or thoughts or my children's actions was the moment I knew they would happen, and "I'll never. . ." bit the dust. I realized those people didn't have two little boys they also had to consider. They didn't have all the responsibility for determining discipline and daily activities. And quite possibly they didn't have a faith in God that guided them through the day. I also decided that they had a hind sight that eliminated the parts of memory they didn't want to remember, the parts that may have gone against their preconceived ways things were supposed to happen.