The "Perfect" Cup of Coffee
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33 (NIV)
It was going to be the perfect Father's Day. Perfect.
All my husband wanted was his nonfat peppermint mocha.
And I — his list-making, get 'er done wife — was going to make his dreams come true. So we headed for the coffee shop.
But as we pulled into the drive-thru, the unthinkable happened: Another car cut in front of us.
And me? I lost my mind.
I rolled down my window and screamed, "Are you KIDDING me?!? Who raised you?!?"
I thought I'd recovered sufficiently, but then Roger said, "Kathi, I need you to calm down."
Through gritted teeth, I growled back, "I am calm!"
To which Roger replied, "So why are you unbuckling your seat belt?"
Okay — maybe I wasn't as calm as I thought.
I continued to seethe for the rest of our time in line. I was livid, but there wasn't anything I could do except grumble and complain.
When we finally pulled up to the window, the young barista looked confused. He handed us our drinks and said, "I don't really understand what's happening, but the car ahead of you bought all your drinks and told me to tell you that they were raised by wolves."
Thankfully I can laugh about that incident now, but in the moment I wanted everything to be perfect. And when it wasn't, I lost it. That's not the only time the Perfectionism Bully (so named because it keeps beating me up) has made an appearance in my life. And the results are usually anything but funny.
Perfectionism lures us onto the hamster wheel of Try-Harder Living, causing us to become obsessed with results. "If you do everything just right, everything will turn out according to plan," it quietly lies to us.
When we've been brainwashed by perfectionism, we feel that people who violate our expectations deserve whatever reaction they provoke. Like yelling out the car window in the drive-through.
Or giving a spouse the silent treatment to "teach him a lesson" for spoiling our perfect plans.
Or meddling in a child's life under the guise of "helping" things turn out just right ... the way we know they should.
Unlike the Perfectionism Bully, God tells us the truth. He is realistic and upfront as our key verse mentions: "In this world you will have trouble" (John 16:33b). He also assures us that in Him, we can have peace because He has "overcome the world!"
Here are some practices I've learned when the desire to try harder and harder to make things "just right" starts to brew:
Pull back and pause. When you recognize perfectionism for what it is — a deceptive bully — you can choose to pull back instead of letting it force you forward, demanding results. You can pause to see what's actually worth yelling out a car window for (a child running into a busy street) and what's not (a car cutting in front of you).
Pray for discernment. Ask whether you're being driven by fear or guided by God. The condemning voice in your head insisting, "That's not good enough! Try harder!" is perfectionism. The still, small voice of loving conviction speaking to your heart is God.
Practice "Tiny Acts of Rebellion." Take an active stand against the Perfectionism Bully. Say "no" to its destructive demands and "yes" to caring choices. Praise your child for making his own bed and don't fix it for him. Welcome a guest into your home without apologizing for "this mess." Leave home wearing no makeup, just a big smile.
Rebelling against perfectionism's tyranny requires bravery. But take heart! It's totally worth it. As you break free from this bully, the peace of Christ will rule your heart instead.
Lord, help me to recognize the voice of the Perfectionism Bully today. Lead me to hear, believe and follow only You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Colossians 3:15, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful." (NIV)
Isaiah 26:3, "You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!" (NLT)
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Think about a recent situation in which you tried harder and harder to make things "just right." Ask yourself: Was I driven by fear or guided by God?
Plan a "Tiny Act of Rebellion" against the Perfectionism Bully for today and tell a trusted friend about it. (You could even invite her to be your Bravery Buddy!)