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Riding the Edge of Perfectionism

To me, being a perfectionist is like balancing on the edge of a mountain.

If everything isn’t balanced just right, it can all come toppling down pretty quickly. And when it does, it hurts. Mostly it’s just a pride issue, but it hurts nonetheless.

I never realized how much of a perfectionist I was until I became the editor of my college newspaper. I had very little toleration for any mistakes—grammatical, factual or whatever. Mostly, I just decided that it was absolutely humiliating to make your mistakes in front of your entire college campus.

But, then one day, the newspaper came out, and people were reading it, and I realized that they didn’t even notice the missing comma after the first independent clause in one sentence on page two, or the fact that a frame on a picture box on page seven wasn’t quite all the way to the edge of the photo.

And those of you who aren’t perfectionists, now think I’m a nerd. I know. But, those of you who can relate are silently both laughing and weeping in empathy for my affliction.

This day of self-loathing for my errors in editing was really a turning point for me. It was the day that I realized where my testimony really starts.

See, my life reads much the same way as graph four of this article. The few mistakes I have made publicly are rarely noticed by my friends but to me are glaringly huge like a zit on the face of my nearly perfect complexion. I’m serious. I grew up practically never lying to my parents, never beating up my sister (though I did call her names), never getting in trouble at school.

I was the model student. I got straight As. Once I reached high school, I never did any of those things everyone’s parents worry you are going to do. I never smoked. I never drank. I never even kissed a boy. I was the perfect daughter.

I’m not bragging. I’m just pointing out that up until the day mentioned above, I wasn’t quite sure what my testimony was. I mean, I believed all the things a person is supposed to believe in order to be a Christian. I believed that Jesus died on the cross, was buried and raised on the third day, all to forgive me of my sins and all that jazz.

I believed that with all my heart. But, given my life, I always felt a bit left out on the whole “transformation from a life of sin” part. Because, well, from all appearances,I thought I didn’t need a whole lot of transformation.

But, then, I realized that my biggest sin is pride. This has occurred to me before, but not as strongly as this day. It suddenly occurred to me that I often rely upon myself instead of the grace of God to make me perfect.

That day in the hall, as my friends read the newspaper, my friend Anna said, “Do you ever ask God to help you make fewer errors?” My first thought was how silly that sounded. “Please, God, help me to see all of the misspellings and comma splices before the paper goes to press …” Um, yeah …

But, then I realized the greater implication this had for my life in general. I don’t think my friends realized it, but that day I went out to my car crying.

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That day I learned what sin is. Sin isn’t too many drinks. It isn’t murder or auto theft. Those are only some symptoms. But, the root of the problem? Pride. Sin is pride in yourself, thinking you don’t need Jesus. It’s thinking you’re just fine and that you can earn the approval of others, of God and even your own approval.

But, you can’t. And if you’re a perfectionist, you’re reminded of that on days like this.

See, God has done just as much for me as he has for a drug addict or a prostitute. He’s saved me from myself, from the lies that I have believed, from my thinking that sometimes I don’t need Him.

And he’s given me an identity. One that says I’m perfect by the blood of Christ.

And the edge of perfectionism? It is a mountain. And Christ sits at the top beckoning me. “I’ve already conquered this mountain,” he says. “You don’t need to climb anymore. Just rest in my victory. I stand atop perfection.”

That is my testimony.

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