Tuesday, June 6, 2017

My Perfect Little Life, Exposed
By Cortney Donelson

Photo Cred: www.getorganizedwizard.com

I am a recovering perfectionist.

I don't use that term lightly or flippantly. I'm not making a naive joke or an uneducated parallel between the compulsion to create straight lines and neatly outlined, color-coded lists and the struggles found in the pit of an addiction with drugs, alcohol, food, or sex. My husband is a recovering addict, so I know (quite directly) the significance of my statement. I have lived through the deepest lows, the hurling hurts, and the intermittent peaks of victory found in the life with an addict who has not yet relented to God's direction and purpose for his or her life.

Perfectionism is and does many things: It paints a deceptively pretty picture. It illustrates high levels of organization. It's the illusion of maintaining utter control.

Perfectionism is also disobedience, spiritual narcissism, practical atheism, and idolatry. It can become an addiction, too.

To simplify a complicated definition, an addiction is the condition of being enslaved to a practice, thought-process, or drug that can be psychologically or physically habit-forming (or both) to such an extent that it causes harm or disruptions to daily life.

As a kid, a ruler was one of my closest friends and this was not because I liked to measure things. It's actually the gold standard for creating straight edges for note-taking. As a teenager, my neat and tidy bedroom was my safe haven. I followed all the rules. Every. Single. One. I studied to my heart's content and worked my mediocre tennis-playing rear end up to the #1 spot by my senior year in high school. I twitched in the presence of clutter, and when I became a mom, my stomach tumbled when my kids colored outside the lines or didn't follow school rules. If perfection was my goal, achievements and rule-following were my means to get there. 

In my perfection, I learned all the Biblical commandments. I promised to love God, love my enemies, turn the other cheek, give away my possessions, and confront difficult situations and people in love and truth. I learned to speak the "church language" and memorize Scripture. I led Bible studies and small groups. On paper, I was the perfect Christian. So, how did my rigorous meticulousness  - my pretty little life - usher in any disobedience at all? If anyone dug more than two centimeters down into my soul, they would have balked at the hypocrisy. Mind you, I did. I didn't know it was there either.

I didn't realize that in my perfect little world, I actually couldn't love my enemies because I was judging them. In my perfect little world, I wasn't able to turn the other cheek because I felt far too much betrayal when others didn't treat me like I thought I deserved to be treated. See, perfectionists take a lot of things personally. In my perfect little world, I couldn't give away everything because I felt I had to hoard my successes and achievements to prove I was worthy of the reputation I had gained.

Then, came the spiritual narcissism... In my perfect little world, I couldn't meet others in love because there was an overabundance of truth, and I came across as a critic. Little miss perfect couldn't even comprehend others' struggles because I was so busy hiding, compartmentalizing, and denying my own.

The next step to my downward spiral was practical atheism. In essence, I was doing everything "right" and by the Book (literally). I became all too independent and self-sufficient. My quiet times with God became less frequent. After all, I had figured out this thing called life, and at times, made it look easier than it truthfully was. I was so involved in reaching my own personal goals and dreams that I forgot to ask God what His plan for me was. I guess you could say I forgot God altogether. And, that's when the idolatry began.

My perfect little world leaped onto the top of the podium, knocking the Lord right off from the spot He rightfully owns. My perfectionism had crossed the line. It was adversely affecting my life, specifically my relationship with God and by ability to love others. 

Then, my perfect little world took a misstep, one for which even I had not planned. It tripped and fell off the top of that podium to crack wide open on the pavement below...

(Stay Tuned for Part 2)

Influenced by my May 16th talk at icuTalks (click for video), 1 John 1:8, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, Luke 6:37, Matthew 7:1, my struggles with perfectionism, my life as an adoptive mom, my story as told in the book Clay Jar, Cracked, and my prayer life.

©2012-2017 Cortney Donelson. All rights reserved.

Cortney's book, Clay Jar, Cracked: When We're Broken But Not Shattered is available now on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, and other retailers, as well as at www.cortneydonelson.com! Visit www.cortneydonelson.com for more information and to learn about the "I'm a Clay Jar" Encourager Class for groups! To schedule speaking engagements, please email Cortney directly. 

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