Category Archives: Perfectionism

Authentic Responsibilities: I Just Don’t Know

Authentic Responsibility #6: As a human being, I will sometimes not know the answer to a question. I am responsible to say “I don’t know,” continue respecting myself, and not accept any disrespect for “not knowing.”

shrugging man by David Castillo Dominici

image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / freedigitalphotos.net

When I was in high school, my friend and her dad invited me to attend a leadership conference. During the conference, the speaker asked if we had any “Drug-Free Zone” signs in our school district. I nodded and then affirmed that we did. My friend’s dad asked me where it was located. I knew I had seen one but I honestly didn’t know where it was. So I said what first came into my mind: “It’s at the entrance to our middle and high schools.” My friend’s dad vocalized his skepticism, which I then countered by insisting that there was a sign there. On the drive home, we stopped by the entrance to our middle and high schools and to my embarrassment, there was no sign. On the short drive to my house, I endured a lecture about the importance of knowing the truth from my friend’s dad as he rebuked me smugly for speaking out of turn.

I remember how I felt from both ends of the situation: I felt terrible for saying something that ended up being untrue, and I felt humiliated that my friend’s dad had reacted like a jerk when I was wrong. And although I wasn’t a responsible adult when this occurred, it reminds me of three important points about when we don’t know something:

  1. It’s okay to not know. I did not really know the answer to the question. However, my childish pride wouldn’t allow me to say that I did not know. With the internet, social media, and smartphones, it seems we are expected to know everything. But we are not. We can continue learning every day, but we must remember that it is okay to swallow our pride and say, “I don’t know.” Proverbs 11:2 says, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.” Humble yourself and admit when you don’t know, or you may face disgrace.
  2. Let it go. Another issue that stems from pride is that we may continue to hold on to something, to believe we must be right or prove to others that we are right or smart. I did exactly this when I was challenged by my friend’s father in front of the group. Instead of admitting that I might not have known and moving forward, I pressed the issue. Maybe you don’t know and yet you don’t want to feel inferior. I challenge you to let it go and keep respecting yourself. Not knowing does not make you inferior! (1 John 3:20)
  3. Don’t accept disrespect. I was only a teenager, so I could not correct my friend’s father’s disrespect of me. However, I learned a good lesson about how to handle when you are wrong and when you are right. I try not to be disrespectful towards others who may not know the answers. And if I’m disrespected, I address that as politely and firmly as I can. Ephesians 5:11 encourages us to stand up for ourselves, noting that we are to “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” Disrespecting others is unfruitful, so expose to the light of Christ—in love—any disrespect shown you, and reject it.

Now, as an adult, when I don’t know something, I freely admit it with confidence! And when someone else doesn’t know something, I show them respect—treating them how I would want to be treated. Only God knows everything. Once you’ve accepted that, you can begin to walk in humility and allow God to lift you up.

When is a time you didn’t know the answer to something? How did others respond?

Authentic Responsibilities: Make No Mistake?

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.

mistake man by stockimages

image courtesy of stockimages / freedigitalphotos.net

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?