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