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Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 11 comments

Many of you have heard me say that I'm a recovering perfectionist. (Recovering, because while I'd love to be rid of perfectionism forever, it still seems to keep raising its ugly head.) For me, perfectionism was inevitable. Not only am I a firstborn, but I also grew up in a world that was black and white; things were either perfect or they were unacceptable. 


For example, in school it was my understanding that an "A" was the only passing grade. I guess I never considered why B-C-D-E were necessary if they all meant the same thing - FAILURE. (Note: I am not saying that anything less than an A is failure, I'm saying that's what I was led to believe.) I was in the 5th grade before I learned you could earn less than an "A" and still pass!

There are many downfalls to perfectionism, the greatest of which is that no one is perfect (except for Jesus. and I'm not Him. for which we should all be grateful). 

In my clouded understanding, perfection = success, which meant that anything short of that = failure. In other words, I felt like a failure almost all of the time. While I've made great strides in lowering my expectations of myself to a more reasonable level, I still struggle with feelings of failure. 

No one can beat me up better than I can, and it seems as though lately I've been doing a pretty thorough job of it. There's so much to do, and I just can't seem to keep up. Have you ever felt this way?

My husband wants to eat - EVERY DAY - AND wear clean clothes. O.K., I want that too, probably even more than he does. When I'm in survival mode (which has been far too often lately) this is my goal: food and laundry. If this was all I had to do, I think I'd be ok. But then, there's...

Housework. My house is not trashed (for the most part) because clutter literally stresses me out. Still, there are bathrooms to be scoured, floors to be cleaned and windows to be washed. These things often get set aside, but they don't go away unless I'm the one to make them go away.  And then there's...

Yardwork. We're surrounded by trees so no matter how many leaves we pick up in the fall, the beds are always full of them come spring. A winter's worth of broken branches need to be picked up, weeds need to be pulled, and to top it off, we have a bumper crop of maple trees coming up all over - ALL OVER -

You should be seeing dirt here, not a grove of maple saplings
 - in the lawn, the flower beds, the cracks between patio blocks, along the driveway...In this case, if I ignore them they'll send down their taproot and removing them will be that much harder. And as if that weren't enough, we also have...

This room should be empty
The aftermath of home improvement projects. We've had a steady stream of D-I-Y projects in the past year, starting with the backyard fire pit last May. This was immediately followed by transforming part of the basement into a playroom for our grandsons (necessary to eliminate toys taking over the living room) and then the monumental project of replacing all the carpet in the house with hardwood and laminate (for health reasons). Of course, replacing the flooring meant moving EVERYTHING. While I kept up with the main floor, the upstairs was a different story. The spare bedroom upstairs is currently housing everything that needs to find a home. Thankfully, this bedroom has a door that I can close, but that isn't making anything go away. And on top of all this, there's the "extra's":

A trip this summer to our school in Kenya, which requires many hours of planning and fundraising.

A bridal shower for my only niece to be held in two weeks. And I'm the one giving it. And it's at my house. (That I did on purpose so at least I'll get caught up on the housework - hopefully.)

Yet surprisingly, this former "Martha" could easily become a "Mary." God has allowed me to make time with Him top priority, as it should be. Back in my "Martha" days, I'd be so busy with the above that I wouldn't have any time left for Jesus. Now, the pendulum has swung fully in the opposite direction. I've been faithfully following a plan to read the Bible this year, and would much rather read and study and write and sit at Jesus feet than take care of all of the above.

It's true that I'm feeling overwhelmed right now.

It's true that there are a lot of things not getting done.

It's true that my ongoing health issues are contributing to the problem.

BUT the TRUTH is:

I am not a failure!

And all these things that are overwhelming me are barely a blip on the radar in the scheme of all eternity.

God says in Philippians 4:8 "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."

When I get in a funk of self-condemnation like this, it means I'm thinking all the wrong things. What I need to remember is:

"God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong." ~ 1 Corinthians 1:28

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9

"Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus." ~ 2 Timothy 2:1

"In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us." ~ Romans 8:37

"Not by might nor by power but by my Spirit," says the Lord Almighty ~ Zechariah 4:6

It's time to cover my faulty thinking for the Truth of God's Word!

Which of God's promises do you need to claim today?

Father, whenever I find myself stuck I come to realize it's because I'm trying to do everything in my own strength.  Please help me to rely not on myself but on the grace you so freely give.


11 Responses so far.

  1. Hi, Lisa! Thank you for this post! We never talk about enough perfectionism and what it does for us. Like grace would not exist! Grace-filled Blessings!

  2. Elizabeth says:

    It is so easy to become Martha in this world that makes being busy seem important. I know that I have to work on that constantly! And, I am glad that I am not the only one with some cleaning issues (smiles). Thanks for a great post!

  3. Unknown says:

    Wow Lisa great message. Honestly I'm not a perfectionist but raised by one differentially when it comes to house work. It often makes me feel like a failure but this was a great reminder. Have a great day!

  4. I know some friends who are perfectionist, and although I am not one. I did get good grades in school and always excelled, just because I love to win. There are times when it is good enough and let it go. Thank you for sharing your awesome post with us here at “Tell Me a Story.” At: http://letmetelluastory.blogspot.com/

  5. Stopping by from Tell Me A Story... I, too, have perfectionist tendencies, but I'm thankful God has helped me set some of them aside! You're so right about "the scheme of all eternity." We'd best make good use of our time. :-) I need to go read more about your school in Kenya. We have strong ties to a residential care ministry in Brazil. Thanks for all you do on behalf of children!

  6. Some see that perfectionist nature as a good thing because you get stuff done, but as a recovering perfectionist myself, there are many times it does more harm than good. Yes, I am a very motivated focused person that does well at accomplishing the things i set my mind to but I struggle frequently with how to let things go, to cut myself and others slack, to just relax and let the to do list go. I have become very self conscious of trying to live in the moment and of giving thanks for those blessed moments. I think this recovering perfectionist is something I'll work on my whole life.
    Angela @ The PACI Fund Project (http://pacifundproject.blogspot.com) and Time with A & N (http://glennbabies.blogspot.com)

  7. Great post. Sometimes the solutions are finding compromises. My husband likes to eat every night, but it doesn't mean cooking every night. Menu planning has helped us eat healthier, save money, and both participate in choosing how we are going to eat for the week so it isn't stressing out one person.

    I wish you well on your journey.

  8. Problems of a Melancholy........Perfectionism.
    It breaks me and leaves me broken when i can't find the strength to think of one positive thing about me or others that does not need change..
    I'm grateful for God's words that consoles me.
    Lisa God bless you for sharing this post and helping a sister stay strong:)
    The Beautiful Eagle

  9. I had to laugh when I saw your perfectionism came out of being first-born. I wrote about my "first-born" experience today too.

  10. Wow thank you for that wonderful post. I am a perfectionist, and a first-born too. I am going to put you on my blogs to follow

  11. I'm w/ you on this.... perfectionist, first born of 5 kids,..... I remember being so upset w/ myself for getting an A- on a paper....and feeling like such a failure..... When I found out my blood type was A+, I was SO RELIEVED!!! :) Oh, my..... NOT a good thing to be a perfectionist and yet, it can look good. It can also be hiding a whole lot of pride and confidence in self instead of confidence in God. I, too, am recovering.... and have been for a long while... There is nothing we can do to make God love us more.... HE already paid the price for our sins... and trusting in Him, living for Him is so freeing when we stop trying to be perfect. Thank you for the post. :)

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