I am a perfectionist. I can’t even say I’m a recovering perfectionist, because if I’m really honest I know I haven’t given up those tendencies. I want our memories to be lovely and pretty close to perfect, and at times I’ve sacrificed the happiness of my family to obtain it. I’ve snapped at my husband, dressed my son in an outfit that matches instead of what he chose himself, and stretched myself way too thin in the name of making perfect memories. I give up sleep and patience — and even kindness flies out the window — in hopes of getting things perfect.
As we welcome and usher in the holiday season, these perfectionist tendencies have the chance to take over and bring stress into a season of intended peace and joy.
Christmas cards and letters: the stress of capturing the perfect photo and showcasing only the highlights of a year gone by. Thanksgiving: preparing the perfect meal, complete with burlap-y tablescapes and Pinterest crafts for the kids to work on. The month of December: completing an invisible bucket list of exhausting activities, perfectly wrapped gifts, perfect behavior at church services, perfectly coordinated outfits worn while posing for the camera in front of the tree.
We want smiles and what we get are tears.
And the dropping of our hearts into our stomachs when we get “so close” to perfect can be a gateway for guilt. The moments we captured may not be Pinterest perfect, but they’re the real kind of good, and the guilt crawls in when we dare be disappointed.
The seeking of perfection can suck the joy from our souls if we allow it space in our hearts.
The first Christmas was less than perfect, yet it was glorious. It was the greatest mix of holy and human. There was straw, shepherds, and a star. There were hard hearts, new parents, and angels.
At the start of the season, on this day before Thanksgiving, we have a choice to make.
We can choose to chase perfection, or we can choose to chase holy.
When they are grown, what will our kids wax nostalgic about their holidays past? Let’s make these the things that take center stage of our holiday celebrations. Our children, friends, and guests won’t remember if we were late to church. They won’t remember the burned cookie debacle of 2014 or if our bathroom floors were squeaky clean. What they will remember is the warmth of their home, the joy in our faces, and the traditions they began together. Most of all, they’ll remember how we made them feel.
This year, let’s drop perfect. Let’s chase holy instead.
Father, help me in this often stressful season to be patient, to remember that my family and friends and even strangers will remember how I made them feel. Help me shepherd their feelings and focus on the things that matter. Grant me patience and joy so I may make my others feel special and loved by me, and by You. Grant me the openness to feel the same way — special and loved — by You. Amen.
This holiday season, what areas of perfection are you willing to drop?
What do you think you’ll gain instead if things are less than perfect?
*Excerpt from A Moment of Christmas daily devotional by Anna Rendell
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
I do have to say that I am a recovering perfectionist…but it took a LONG time to get here. Perfectionism dies slowly. I can only encourage you that the joy and peace that I’ve found when I finally let go of everything having to be just so…is, well…holy. Whether we lift if up to God or lay it down…in the letting go of having to have everything be perfect, is where true joy is found. Wonderful post!
Blessings to you,
Keri Siegel says
Thank you for sharing. I, too, am a perfectionist— especially when it comes to things I consider important. At the start of this post, you spoke of giving up perfection to chase what’s holy; and my heart asked (almost aloud), “What’s the difference?” You see, I had always equated the two. I thought, “You can’t have perfection without holiness or holiness without perfection. Look at God!” You have made it clear that I was wrong. The ONLY PLACE my former line of thinking holds true is in Him. Certainly, we are to be like Him; but our self-efforts will never get us there. In fact, we’re likely to frustrate ourselves and everyone around us in the process. So, now this morning, because of this post; I have decided to let go of perfection to pursue holiness because that is the only way I can truly honor God and become like Him— which is my ultimate goal. Thank you. Happy Thanksgiving. Be blessed.
It sounds as if this post struck the same chord in you as it did in me! Today is a day of change….
Tears are in my eyes as I am reading this- once again, God has amazed me with His timing. Just before leaving for work this morning, I was praying about this very thing- I can feel the stress of the season starting before I can even smell a hint of turkey! My children are all single grown adults in their 20’s, but still the pressure is there (that I’ve created, not them) to create the perfect holiday, buy the perfect gift, plan the perfect plans so that I do not let anyone down or make a bad memory for them in any way. The pressure I put on myself in this season is tremendous, and I believe it’s mixed with a hint of pride….that all the happiness and joy of this time rests on my shoulders and on what I can produce as we move towards December 25th.
This morning I sensed God telling me that is not how He would want me to approach this holiday season – thinking it’s all up to me. He doesn’t want me filled with pressure, but rather filled with peace that only He can give. I find myself in a repetitive pattern each year and have determined that this year will be different because I am going to lay all of this that i am so concerned about at His feet and trust Him each step of every busy day that is headed down the pike.
Thank you for writing this – it hits spot on to exactly what I am experiencing. I’m printing it out and making it a daily read as I commit to living out this season God’s way and learning how to really celebrate.
This is sooo good. Thanks for sharing Anna!
Your words are so honest and spot on for the holidays. I loved reading all of this and your words sank deep into my heart. I think I need to remember this advice for all year actually, as I have one daughter who doesn’t even like family pictures because I fussed over their position or smile one too many times. I can imagine this will serve you well this holiday with a newborn and unpredictability around the house! Wishing your family and you a very wonderful, lower-stress, love-filled holiday season!
Mary Carver says
Amen, my friend! (And while I call myself a “recovering perfectionist,” it’s a just barely sort of situation. 😉 )
Anna, I love this post. I am a perfectionist in some ways, and recovering perfectionist in others. Dropping perfect and pursuing holy is the perfect mindset to enter the holiday season. God’s really been talking to me about not being too busy during this season. I love your perspective of thinking about how I make others feel. My desire is to make them feel like they are welcome, loved, accepted. Perfection won’t accomplish this, being present and open has a much better chance. May your Thanksgiving and Christmas be filled with moments of holiness and joy. 🙂
Ms. Witi says
I have never been a perfectionist and I know I never will be….way too much pressure and I am more relaxed. I think where my trouble comes is when I see family members wanting that perfect picture, Christmas dinner, clothing matched family attire and they get overwhelmed when its not going as planned (and I do too).
My head starts racing and my words come out all jumbled. They can’t let it go until its perfect and I want them to relax, sit down, don’t worry about it. Usually those mixed thoughts and words can come out wrong and against one another….makes for an eventful holiday as always….
We are what we are good or bad I guess.
Crystal Hall says
I choose holy over perfection but it’s easier said than done! The holidays are a constant reminder for me to slow down and let life unravel as it should. Thank you for this beautiful post Anna.
Rebecca Jones says
I don’t think being a perfectionist is a bad thing, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48, I think that’s why we try so hard, it really takes the Holy Spirit to help navigate life. There will always be people who will remember good times, and some of those who rush through life, it’s important to take time for ourselves as well.
Beth Williams says
I am certainly not perfect in any way! I have tended to want to “do it all” during December. All the concerts, caroling, gift buying, etc. As I get older I have slowed down and chosen a few things to attend. Mostly I want family time. This is especially important as our parents are aging and won’t be around much longer. In fact I cheat on Thanksgiving. I let the grocery store cook my meal for me and I just heat it up. So much less stress and then we all get to sit and enjoy!
Michele Morin says
Love the honesty, and am perpetually in the process of turning over to God my “need” for perfection. Blessings to you!