If you’re a little muddled about how over-helping, perfectionism and playing God are linked, you’re not alone. I’m often puzzled, too. Even experts get confused trying to sort all this out. On occasion, God splashes light into my fogginess through humorous life predicaments. Because all the universe is under God’s domain, I’ve found He can use anything to teach, nurture and grow me. (I love how He does that!) Sometimes new insight comes from surprising venues.
Like that aha! moment I had while watching the movie Driving Miss Daisy a few years ago. The wealthy Miss Daisy and her longtime chauffeur have both aged considerably. As they discuss their situations, Miss Daisy accuses the chauffeur of continuing to drive even though his eyesight is failing. “How do you know how I can see, ‘lessen you look out my eyes?” is his response.
My immediate internal reaction: Whoa! Lord, forgive me for thinking I’m powerful enough to know another’s needs. I realize I will never see their life from their view. I want to learn to treat others with respect. Please help me.
The apostle Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, cautions us about assuming we know another human being’s thoughts and feelings: “No one can really know what anyone else is thinking, or what he is really like, except that person himself” (1 Cor. 2:11, TLB).
I’m continuing to discover the relief-filled truth that I can progressively release my need/urge to do and make it all just right for the people in my life. First step: intentionally trust God for what is not mine to control or direct. Then I can begin to enjoy living in the freedom and grace He patiently waits to give me–and others.
Just wondering: Have you ever experienced what it feels like when someone insists they know what you’re thinking, what you need and how you should resolve your dilemma?
What is perfectionism?
One dictionary defines it as “a propensity for being displeased with anything that is not perfect.” Yet a practicing perfectionist may not always demand straight A’s, refuse to leave the house if the bed’s not made, or endlessly edit a report. Perfectionism is more subtle than that. It’s about unreasonable expectations – how we berate ourselves and others (silently or aloud) for having human (decoded as “weak”) thoughts and emotions, inconsistent commitment levels, or average accomplishments, bodies and relationships.
When we try too hard to make ourselves, our jobs and our families “just right,” we get overly stressed and bone-tired. Who needs that? Relief is possible. It’s a process, but we can reduce our self-sabotaging behaviors by:
Realizing that when we fall into the “trying too hard to make it just right” trap, we believe a misconception: That people, projects and circumstances have the capacity to be perfect (or “just right”).
Just wondering here: Do you ever get tired of trying too hard to make it all just right?
I adapted this article which I originally wrote to be published by Genius Avenue Inc., copyright 2011.
A grace-filled reality that has helped me in my ongoing journey out of over-doing, over-committing and over-whelm is reminding myself often that there IS a difference between “trying too hard to make it all just right” and “partnering with God for excellence.”
If you’re like me, you can sometimes be your own slave-driver. So this verse gives you (and me, too!) permission to be gentler with ourselves. I love that!
Which of these perfectionistic symptoms sounds a little too familiar to you? What one gentle self-care moment are you going to allow yourself this week?
Ezra 3:8-11: "When the builders laid the foundation...with thanksgiving they sang to the Lord: '...his love...endures forever'" (vv.10-11).
"I wonder if I've done permanent damage to my mind and body," admitted a friend who had just left a destructive career environment. "As I begin this journey out of workaholism and burnout, sometimes I'm hopeful, other times I'm racked with doubt. I guess I'd better wait before I count my blessings."
At one time I too was frightened that total restoration was not possible. After all, I had "fried" my brain and soul.
Perhaps the Israelites experienced similar feelings. They had been freed from the oppressive chains of the Babylonians. Restoring the temple in Jerusalem was their goal, but many obstacles remained. The destruction was massive. Could they ever recover what they once had?
With such a huge task ahead, one might expect the Israelites to hold their praise until the temple reconstruction was completed. Yet as the foundation was being laid, they shouted, "God is good."
Learning new ways to live is risky. There is much work to be done and many obstacles to overcome. At first glance, it might seem like an unlikely time for Thanksgiving. However, even in our confusion and doubt, we can be grateful for evidence of growth and praise God.
Lord, your love endures forever -- before, during, and after the restorative process.
Can you think of a time when being grateful seemed like a strange or even ridiculous thing to do, but you found ways to thank God, anyway?
WIN A FREE BOOK! The Bible text (in the photo I took of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem) and this blog post remind me of my devotional book, It's a Wonderful (Imperfect) Life. I'd like to give you an autographed copy. Make a comment here and I'll enter your name for a drawing on THANKSGIVING DAY.
When Nice Becomes Control
Are You Caught in An Over-Helping Trap?
“It’s easy to get confused by the Messiah Trap, a two-sided lie that, on the surface, appears to be noble, godly, and gracious. After all, being a caring and helpful person is something we value,” writes Carmen Renee Berry, author of When Helping You is Hurting Me.
Berry suggests that we believe one of two lies when we get caught in this trap.
1. Messiah Trap Lie Number One: If I don’t do it, it won’t get done. Messiah Trap people are doers, helpers and genuinely nice people. We keep homes and offices running smoothly. But we can become weary and overwhelmed when we believe another person’s happiness, spirituality, health and/or success is our God-given task. Berry says, “The Messiah Trap is an odd combination of feeling grandiose yet worthless, of being needed and yet abandoned, of playing God while groveling.”
Maybe this applies to you. Maybe it doesn’t. But before you write it off, consider this:
2. Messiah Trap Lie Number Two: Everyone else’s needs should take priority over mine. Because we don’t want to be or appear selfish, we often neglect our own spiritual, emotional, medical or social needs. People depend on us for answers and unending support, which makes us feel important and worthwhile. However, when inevitable humanness breaks through our facade, we may find no one to help us. We can then feel isolated, lonely or disillusioned.
It’s a catch-22, because we dislike the imperfect sensation associated with insignificance or disappointment almost as much as we dislike losing control and not making everything just right. These less-than-perfect emotions and experiences feel so miserable that we deduce we must try harder to avoid feeling this way. Or we withdraw, pretending we never experienced the uncomfortable feelings in the first place.
Either way, it is a genuine relief once we realize that God doesn’t expect us to have all the answers in order to be a valuable and compassionate friend, spouse, parent, colleague or Christian. We can break free from the MESSIAH TRAP or the OVER-HELPING TRAP. It's okay with God if we relax and let Him take-over what isn't our job to control anyway.
“Relax, everything’s going to be all right; rest, everything’s coming together; open your hearts, love is on the way!” (Jude 1:1, THE MESSAGE).
The Lasting Freedom of Easter
Many of us long to be accepted unconditionally, to be free of "shoulds", "oughts", and "have-tos". We hunger for good news to feed our souls. We are tired of striving, yet always falling short. When we stop trying so hard, and let ourselves feel, we may realize our fear of rejection is overwhelming.
Jesus did not come to give us more to-do's. He does not stand over us ready to chide when we fail. He gives no dirty looks when we are tired and cannot go on. God sent Jesus not to condemn us, but to save, deliver, protect and make us whole (John 3:17).
Some of us have felt shameful criticism from family or fellow church members. We work strenuously to avoid further rejection. We may believe that if we surrender to Jesus we will experience additional religious condemnation. However, it is not God's plan to heap condemnation on us. He sent Jesus to release us to freedom. This is the on-going good news of Easter.
How are you celebrating the lasting freedom of Easter this week, even after the family gathering/egg hunt/church-going holiday has passed?
Using Time Effectively
You've probably noticed that I've not blogged much in the last few weeks. Well, actually it's been since I started my school classes in late January. While attempting to juggle my new much-loved school classes, life coaching, speaking, and my regular life, I remembered that when I was a child, I memorized the verse: "Redeeming the time, because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:16.)
I wanted to heed the message, making the best possible use of my God-given time. I thought "redeeming time" meant I must make each moment productive. Over the years, it came to mean filling each minute of every day with activity and accomplishment. Rushing and busyness characterized my life.
Occasionally I paused enough to realize I was not in control of my time. Time was controlling me. I then resolved to step back and adjust, only to be sucked up into the excessive doing once again.
If I made perfect use of my time, I thought, I could accomplish much and God would be pleased with me. It was not only a lie, but an impossibility. Speeding through life is not a productive way to redeem the time. A better way to redeem life's opportunities is to slow down, relax, and enjoy myself, others and God.
Some days I practice this philosophy, some days I don't. I'll never do it perfectly. But God knows my desire to effectively redeem my time. AND He's helped me say "no" this past week to several requests that don't fit into my life right now (so I can continue to say "yes" to what I believe He's given me at this stage of my life.) I'm grateful.
Do you ever feel like "rushing and busyness characterize your life? What do you want to do about it?
How NOT to Do Marriage in 2014
11 Tips About How NOT to Do Marriage
The GOOD NEWS? You, your spouse, and your marriage don't have be perfect to be loving, fun and even wonderful. Really! Only God is perfect!
So you can relax and stop over-trying, over-helping, or over-controlling in order to make your spouse and marriage-relationship be "just right." I find this such a relief!
Which one of these 11 tips do you identify with this New Year? (I'd love to hear from you!)
* When you see an asterisk, click on the sentence to take you to a short link that gives more information about what this "tip" means.
A Grace-Filled Christmas -- Every Day?
While preparing for this gift-giving season, I asked myself (and God) two questions (at different times.)
1. What is Christmas to me?
2. What would it mean to enjoy a "grace-filled" holiday?
QUESTION #1: In my journal I wrote the following:
To me Christmas is:
"Sooooo, every day is Christmas to me," I concluded. And then it dawned on me that this reality (that every day is Christmas for me) has caused me to "lighten up" my unrealistic expectations for celebrating Christmas. It's been more an internal shift than an outward one. I've released some of the intense "shoulds and have tos and musts" that society, the media, the church, my inner bully, and others--who appear to have it all together--tell me (or at least hint) that I NEED to do.
In my heart, I now know that I don't have to cram all my giving, caring, doing, gratitude, merriment, music, celebrations, goodwill, and spirituality into the 4-5 concentrated weeks of Christmas holidaying.
QUESTION #2: And then I read about the original meaning of the word "grace" used in the Bible to tell us about the Christ of Christ-mas. This "grace" is the direct opposite of "works", in fact the two are mutually exclusive. All my "trying too hard to make it all just right" at Christmas (or any other time) is the antithesis of grace. When I truly accept God's grace/favor in Christ, I'm able to be grace-ful with myself and others. (John 1:14-17)*
Practical Grace Example! I shared this with some women at the beginning of December. A mom with 4 little kids got so excited that she began thinking of ways to "grace" herself and her family this season. One practical thing she did was to relax her expectations for how her artificial tree would be decorated. When she put it together, she didn't have time to "fluff" up the branches, so she let it go--and allowed the kids to decorate, anyway! All very smile-able.
How will you "grace" yourself and your loved ones this Christmas week?
BOOK WINNERS: Thank you to all of you for commenting on my last blog and entering the book give-away for It's a Wonderful (Imperfect) Life. The three winners were Robyn Bloomquist, Patricia Groff, and Tessie M. Congratulations!. Hope you enjoy reading the devotionals. Love your comments, Everyone. Keep them coming please! :-)
*The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. ...From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." John 1:14-17
[Joan's taking some time-off and has asked her friends and fellow-writers Becky Johnson and Rachel Randolph to share an excerpt from their funny and heart-warming book about food and love.
Comment below to put your name in the hat to win an autographed copy of
WE LAUGH WE CRY WE COOK. Drawing on 12/08/13.]
Excerpt written by Becky Johnson, mother of the mother/daughter writing duo
An aside to moms of all ages: Even Iron Chefs have bad days in the kitchen. And being a mom is a little like being an Iron Chef—with a million things to do in a ridiculously short amount of time—only you have to do it without a full night’s sleep or hired help.
There are no perfect cooks and no perfect mothers. You will try. You will try so very hard. Still you will fail and fall and sometimes flail. You will feel guilty about all this. When I read about Rachel’s younger self longing for order and neatness, for a mother who valued routines and was fully awake and aware in the morning, I ache with the yearning to go back in time and do it all better. If only I cooked beautiful breakfasts and kept a better house, I think, perhaps my children would never have suffered, never have any of their own personality quirks, never made their own share of mistakes. If I had been more perfect, perhaps they would also be perfect and have only perfect things happen to them.
But let me share something my mother, Ruthie, who the kids call Granny, shared with me. Perhaps it will comfort you as it has comforted me through the years. “No matter how well you do your job as a parent, even if you should do it almost perfectly, you’ll still raise little human beings with selfish streaks, temper tantrums, and the remarkable ability to lie to you with the face of an angel. And even if you could be a perfect parent, your child will still have to grow up in an imperfect world and live through their own share of disappointments and heartaches. Ultimately, you need God’s grace and they’ll need God’s grace, and that’s just the way it is.”
So try not to sweat your imperfections. We are just fallible human beings doing our best to raise other fallible human beings. Do your best with the big stuff, and trust that loads of love and laughter and grace will cover the rest.
On your deathbed your adult kids won’t remember how you loaded the dishwasher (okay, maybe mine will as it is a memorable sort of thing); they’ll remember that you thought they were remarkable, lovable, and capable—a blessing to you and others. If you do your job as well as you can, you will arrive at old age knowing you and your children both had your share of flaws and mistakes, but you’ll focus on what matters most—how, over the scraping sound of burnt toast being whittled, you loved each other to the moon and back.
Granny’s Oat and Fruit Gems
These make healthy snacks and great grab-’n’-go breakfasts.
2 bananas, mashed
2 peeled apples, grated
3 cups old fashioned oats
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ cup raw organic sugar
½ cup dried chopped fruit (dates, dried cranberries, coconut, raisins, apricots all work well)
1 cup nuts and/or seeds, chopped (walnuts, pecans, almonds, sunflower seeds all work well)
½ teaspoon almond extract (or 1 teaspoon vanilla)
grated zest of one orange
Preheat oven to 350˚. Mix all of the above together in a large mixing bowl. Spray or oil muffin pans. Fill them about ⅔ full and gently press down with back of spoon. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until just golden brown around edges and top. When cool to touch, gently remove from pan. Serves 18.
• Gluten-free friendly (use gluten-free oats)
Becky Johnson and her daughter Rachel Randolph, couldn't be more different...Becky is messy; Rachel craves order. Becky forgets what month it is; Rachel is an organizational genius. But in the kitchen they are in sync.
In WE LAUGH WE CRY WE COOK, Becky and Rachel share stories of their fun and oft-crazy lives as Rachel becomes a mother herself. Though their differences in personality sometimes cause a clash or two, the family funny bone - plus generous helpings of grace and acceptance - keep them from taking themselves too seriously. Sprinkled throughout are delicious and nourishing recipes they love to make and share. Please comment below for a chance to win WE LAUGH WE CRY WE COOK!
Joan C. Webb
Writing, teaching, coaching to empower and set free.