Overcoming Perfectionism This Holiday Season
We all know the words of the classic carol: “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” And, it’s fun to sing in theory, but for many of us, it doesn’t feel like the most wonderful time of the year. It feels like the most stressful time of the year.
The Christmas holiday brings lots to do such as presents to buy, family to host, decorations to put up, and feasts to make. With Christmas comes a whole lot of expectations from a whole lot of people. And so, with Christmas comes the overwhelming burden of perfectionism. Doing it better than most and being better than most.
We want to do it right, to make everyone happy. And, in a way, that’s a noble goal if we’re genuinely seeking to serve the ones we love. But in doing so, we have a tendency to heap way too much on our plates to the point of breaking. Trust me, through my experiences, I’ve been there many times and it’s not pretty!
And, this is certainly not the way of life Jesus came to give us. He came to bring “peace to those on whom his favor rests” Luke 2:14. So, how can we manage our expectations and overcome perfectionism this holiday season? We need just turn to The Word and seek God’s guidance and wisdom.
God’s Word Reminds Us
1. We will never attain perfection on our own
Isaiah 64:6 (NLT) says, “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags.”
And Romans 3:23 (NLT) says, “everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”You see, no matter how hard we try, we can never measure up to God. Click To Tweet
Even our best performance, our greatest deeds, do not measure up in His eyes. That’s because we have a sin nature— that rebellion – we’re born with it. And the first step to overcoming perfectionism is accepting that fact.
It’s hard to admit you’re just not good enough on your own, but when you do, you’ll experience freedom like never before. Once you realize it’s impossible to meet the standards you’re trying to achieve, you can let go of the striving and just live.
2. Remember the Good News
At Christmas time, we often get so tied up in the story of the birth of Jesus that we leave Him in the manger. Yes, this time is about celebrating His entrance into our world, the introduction of Light in the darkness. But, we must not forget the rest of the story. The reason He was born was so that He could live a perfect life, die in our place, and rise again. That is the Good News!
Even though we could never reach perfection on our own, even though we were doomed to die for our sins, Jesus died for us. He took our punishment on that cross. Indeed, “you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works so that no one can boast” Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT).
3. We are a Work in Progress
We are saved once for all time through the blood of Christ. But there’s more to the story. “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” Hebrews 10:14 (NLT). We are already justified, perfect in God’s eyes, through that single offering. But we are also being sanctified—continually. That sanctification process will go on throughout the rest of our lives, which simply means God is shaping our hearts to become more like Christ. If we’re still breathing, God’s not finished with us. He still has things to do—amazing things—in you!
Striving is pointless because it is the Spirit who is producing any goodness within us. “For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort” Philippians 3:3-4 (NLT). Rest in the Spirit. Surrender and just let Him do His thing.
“Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NLT).
Perfectionism is stressful. And tiring. And, honestly, it’s impossible. That’s because we live in a fallen world and cannot possibly attain perfection. Jesus came to set us free from the endless pursuit of perfection. It’s true that His grace is all we need. It’s true that when we are weak, then we are strong because Christ’s power rests on us.
So, this holiday season, remember you could never measure up on your own. But also remember that Jesus did. His sacrifice was sufficient once for all time. And His work is sufficient in us now. So, my friends, I encourage you to trust and rest in Him and breathe deeply throughout these holidays. God’s got you!