Love is something we all long for and crave, whether it’s from our friends, from family, from our significant others, or from God. No one wants to feel like they’re not valued or loved or cherished, especially if they make the effort to love and care for others.
An obstacle to love that I’ve observed in my life and also in the lives of those around me is all-too-consuming perfectionism that can go unnoticed and usually goes unchecked.
Perfectionism is defined as the “refusal to accept any standard short of perfection”, and unfortunately, this is a factor in many relationships. Instead of allowing their loved ones to mess up and make mistakes, many expect perfection and a completion of all their “requirements” to gain their love and affection.
I am also guilty of allowing perfectionism to affect my relationships. What I have found is that a lot of my perfectionism stems from insecurity and fear of not being loved as deeply as I desire. When someone I love makes a mistake or does something that disappoints or upsets me, I take it to the extreme- not because I think they’re awful human beings, but because I’m afraid that it means they don’t love me or won’t always treat me right. I turn one mistake into an entire war.
This perfectionism occurs in a cycle. I not only expect perfection from the people I love, but I also expect perfection from myself for the people I love. I’m afraid that I’m not good enough for their love, and then when it seems true, I turn it on them by saying they’re not good enough for MY love. Only bitterness and anger ensues.
The truth we need to grasp and firmly believe is this: We do not need to earn people’s love and we have no right to expect others to earn ours.
What I believe and want to suggest to you is that in order to break the chains and cycle of perfectionism, we need to first find the source of our perfectionism that is affecting us (i.e. insecurity, fear, bitterness) and then run to Jesus with what we find so he can give us the love and power to break the perfectionism we affect others with.
Because Jesus is perfect, all that He does is perfect. That includes perfect love. He is the quintessence of the love that we all crave and desire. Oftentimes, the problem is that we either don’t believe this or we don’t put much stock into this because we’d rather have earthly, imperfect, prone-to-fail love. It doesn’t make much sense when it’s spelled out like that, but when it comes to love, many things don’t. Why do we look to people to fulfill and satisfy us when only Jesus can? Jesus never asks us to earn His love; in fact, His love has already been freely given to us. Nothing we could ever say or do could change that.
God is love… There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:15,18-19)
Once we let Jesus transform us from perfectionist beings to accepting-of-imperfection-ist beings, we then will be able to love people freely. This transformation only takes place when we grow in faith of His unfailing, perfect love for us.
Furthermore, when we love people freely, we then free them from expecting perfection from themselves, which helps discontinue the cycle that is occurring in many lives all around us. But the process starts with ourselves.
I warn you, the process is long and there will be many days, even months or years, where it’ll feel like nothing’s changing. One argument or fight or bad day can convince you that you’ll never change. My friends, this is a lie from satan. No chains are too strong for Christ. He can break every single one of them, and to think that one bad day or a string of bad days can change that is to doubt the power and freeing love of Christ.
We need to run to Jesus with our burdens and then let Him do the work in us. It will overflow into our relationships with others once we do. It will take time and patience, humility and self-searching, but it is all too worth it.
I hope this is of value to some of my readers. I certainly hope my experience and ability to relate encourages those who are suffering from relational perfectionism in some way, shape, or form. Perfectionism, whether diagnosed or just an undiagnosed observed part of your life, is able to be defeated and we can choose to end this cycle- not by our power alone, but through the power of Jesus Christ in us.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
A few days ago, I was reminded of something that still blows me away- God’s faithfulness despite our own unfaithfulness.
Take the book of Hosea for example. Back story: Hosea is a prophet who is told by God to marry a prostitute and have children with her, “for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord” (1:2).
First of all, if I was Hosea, I’d be a little confused as to why I needed to marry a prostitute to prove a point about God’s faithfulness. Would a simple message not do?
Then what happens next is the part that truly grabs my attention.
Hosea’s wife leaves him to continue being promiscuous.
And yet God commands Hosea, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods…” (3:1).
And there is something wedged between these two events- God pursues His unfaithful wife.
“… I will block her path with thornbushes; I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way. She will chase after her lovers but not catch them; she will look for them but not find them. Then she will say, ‘I will go back to my husband as at first, for then I was better off than now.’ (2:6-7)
“… she decked herself with rings and jewelry, and went after her lovers, but me she forgot,” declares the Lord. ‘Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her”… “In that day,” declares the Lord, “you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master.’ ” (2:13-14,16)
Is this not a beautiful picture of God’s love for us?
I was particularly struck by this as I thought of all the ways I have abandoned Him due to distraction in this world. I was deeply convicted of being unfaithful by my actions and focus.
Through James 4, I was reminded:
You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the Spirit he caused to dwell in us longs jealously? But he gives us more grace. (4:4-6)
Yes, I make mistakes. Yes, I allow myself to take my focus off of Jesus Christ, my true Husband and Love. Yet He never stops loving me. In fact, Scripture says He longs for me jealously, and despite all I’ve done, He gives me more grace.
And the same is true for you.
His faithfulness is so deep, your unfaithfulness cannot even taint it.
This brings me back to the story of Abraham and God making a covenant in Genesis 15. The story goes that God gives Abraham promises for himself and his descendants. To make this promise official, God makes a covenant with Abraham much like people in those days would normally make covenants together. Animal sacrifices are split into halves and arranged opposite each other. After this is done, both people making the covenant pass through these pieces, which is called “cutting the covenant.” After the covenant is made, any breaking of the covenant by either person results in them being subject to death.
But this is where God declares His faithfulness.
When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram… (Genesis 15:17)
Did you notice that it didn’t say Abraham passed through? God alone participated in cutting the covenant, symbolizing that Abraham doesn’t have to keep his part of the covenant. Even if Abraham breaks it, God will still keep His promise and come through. He remains faithful.
No matter what you are facing and how far you have strayed from God, remember that He is still just as faithful as ever.
He is consistently pursuing you, even if you are brought into a wilderness where all is unknown and seemingly dark. Let Him speak tenderly to you and welcome you back into His embrace.
Although our unfaithfulness is nothing to boast of, it allows us to see God’s amazing faithfulness put into action. Where sin runs deep, His grace is more.
I think many of us sometimes feel trapped, weighed down by guilt, shame, remorse, regret, or maybe all of the above. Even though we know God is forgiving and loving, and even though we know Jesus died on the cross so our slates could be wiped clean, we still find ourselves thinking that we’re undeserving, unworthy. In all reality, we really don’t deserve God’s abundant grace and mercy. But He gives it to us regardless because we are His children who He desires to have a relationship with.
The sad thing is that we sometimes feel like we’ve lost all our chances although this is far from truth.
Jesus doesn’t just forgive us our sins. He erases them. Like the cookies on your computer. You can’t undo erasing them. You can’t bring them back after all has been said and done. They’re gone for good.
Despite our depravity and sinful flesh, we are forgiven again and again when Jesus is our Lord and Savior. This doesn’t mean that he forgives but doesn’t forget. This doesn’t mean he holds things against us or keep a list of all of our wrongdoings. Because the Word says we are made clean and we are made new, that’s exactly what we are.
Satan can try to catch us in his web of lies, tricking us into thinking that we’ve messed up too many times for redemption to be possible. But at the end of the day, God is still God. He always welcomes us back with loving arms, like the father of the prodigal son.
We can’t do anything to earn or deserve His grace and love. What we can do is accept His grace and love. We can accept the truth as what it is, and stop believing these doubts filling our mind.
We are loved. We are forgiven. We are redeemed.
And now it’s time to step out of this hole into new light.
“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-15)
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-19)