Authentic Responsibility #5: As a human being, I will make mistakes. I am responsible to make appropriate restitution which may include expressions of regret or sorrow, but not guilt.
Before I entered Celebrate Recovery, I was a die-hard, self-proclaimed perfectionist. Immediately prior to entering CR, I worked at a small, private WAN-LAN company in accounts receivables. I applied my entire perfectionist theory to my job in this company, wanting to excel in every possible way. After working there for only five months, at the company Christmas party, I was awarded the Employee of the Year award. During the party, my boss made a speech in which he noted that during my five-month tenure at the company, I had not made one single mistake. I was elated at this; my coworkers were not impressed at the praise lavished on me. And a few months later, when I finally did make a mistake, I realized how much pressure I had been putting on myself to continue my perfection streak, and how I had alienated most of my coworkers.
Expecting perfection from yourself (or someone else) is unrealistic. Authentic responsibility rejects the idea of perfectionism and accepts that we cannot yet achieve perfection, no matter how hard we try. So here are three things to remember if you are striving for perfection:
- You will make mistakes. Not if, but when. No one is perfect, and Romans 3:23 says that we all sin and fall short of God’s intended glory for us. So accept that fact. Stop striving for perfection, because it will constantly elude you and make you feel like a failure. Give it your best, commit yourself to excellence, but understand that we are constantly being perfected and made holy as we live this life—and we won’t achieve absolute perfection until we are united with Jesus in heaven.
- Making mistakes means growing in humility. What keeps conflicts, arguments, and dissension going among us? Pride. We hate admitting that we are wrong. We hate making mistakes (especially so-called perfectionists!). So we refuse to humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord—or anyone else. However, authentic responsibility says to the Lord and to others, “I was wrong, and I apologize and will fix it.” Proverbs 11:2 says, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.” When I was trying so hard to be perfect, I was not allowing myself to grow. When I started my next job, I made several mistakes within the first week—and allowed myself the experience of learning from them. And when we learn from our mistakes, we gain humility and wisdom.
- Guilt is not the same as regret. Guilt says, “I am a bad person.” Regret says, “I did a bad thing.” Guilt, shame, and condemnation focus on your character and personality. Regret, remorse, and sorrow focus on the action. Because there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1), because we are cleansed if we ask for forgiveness (1 John 1:9), we do not have to feel guilty. The Holy Spirit may convict us for our mistake, but we have the freedom to reject any condemnation.
Make no mistake, and you make no improvements in yourself. Instead, accept the authentic responsibility that allows you the freedom to make mistakes. But be brave in your pursuits to correct your wrongs, offer restitution, and express regret and sorrow. Not only will you learn more about yourself, you will grow in areas that are pleasing to the Lord.
In what ways has being imperfect helped you to grow?