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  • David A. Case

Perfectionists Beware!


Virtually everyone I know struggles with some level self hatred. It seems like the right thing to do. How else are we going to keep control of ourselves? We have to give ourselves a good “beating” now and then or we will get “the big head.”

The problem is that this kind of “self control” doesn’t work. In fact, if anything, the self hatred makes the problem worse. The very thing that we are trying to stop inside of ourselves grows in intensity when we focus our attention against it. “I won’t” becomes “I give up.”

Start with the simple fact that we are created to be temples of God. We house spiritual presence. Whatever is happening at the spiritual level is one of the most powerful factors in success or failure. Self hatred can quickly become an all consuming spiritual flow. Once the sense of being a “loser” sets in, the chance of getting rolled by something you don’t want to do is high.

The solution is not the opposite—a self-proclaimed “I am awesome.” The spiritual flow of that phrase is “I can do it by myself.” It is pride. God cannot help the proud man because there is no room for God in the spirit of the proud man. Sure, the “positive thinker” may feel good about self for a season. But once the first defeat comes, the greater crash is soon to follow.

The solution to self hatred is “I am.” Every single human being is fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps. 139:14). Every person has a passion that is needed by those in his circle. We all have something at the deeper spiritual level to contribute to others—but that something has also been taken captive in a way that it has perverse aspects that bring harm instead of the intended good.

Yesterday, I saw my passion to teach overstep its bounds in a way that quenched someone else’s passion. That’s what we do. In our zeal to feel good about ourselves, we tend to press our passion area too hard. Then we get offended because others are not responding well to our deeper person, to our deeper purpose being lived out. Then a whole new cycle of sicknesses develop. We become angry, frustrated, and controlling. We withdraw and pout. One of the biggest drivers of all of these behaviors is that our passion was not received in a way that made us feel good about ourselves. In short, the responses of others triggered our self hatred.

“I am.” Period. If I can accept my “I am” and rest in it, so many things change for the good. As a husband, I have significant influence with my wife. If I try to press that influence too far, the control games start or maybe some form of woundedness or withdrawal. When there is conflict or pain, one of the best things I can do is to do nothing. It is to take a deep breath and rest in my “I am.”

“I am” one human being among many. It is not my job to shake the universe but to be who “I am.” With my wife, I am to be the best representation of the person God created me to be that I can be. When that is not enough, it is ok. I don’t need to stress or strive. I rest in my limitations. When I do that, I bring peace to the situation. When I bring peace, things start working better in my sphere. When things start working better, I feel better about myself. I haven’t “done” anything except rest in my “I am.” I accept my limited influence. I accept that others will not always react well to me and that doesn’t necessarily mean I am a failure. Self hatred compounds interpersonal issues. Resting in my “I am” tends to minimize interpersonal issues over time.

If beating myself up actually changed anything for the good, I might be all for it. I am a perfectionist. I am very good at picking myself apart. I am good at self hatred. But the better I get at my perfectionism, the more I fail. It is time for a new approach. I need to see what my passion should look like lived out as God intended it to be lived. I need to accept that I will have limited influence. Others will not always respond well to me. I am only an influence and I can rest in that part of my “I am.” I bring one slice of the values of the heart of God to the group. Without my slice, the group will be missing something. Too much of my slice and the group becomes tilted in a way that is not healthy.

“I am.” Take your place in the world God has given you. Don’t stop too soon. Don’t press too far. Learn healthy. Rest in it. That is the best thing you can do in life. Drink in the presence of God as you rest in your “I am.” Let Him fill your spirit. When you let go of your self hatred, He is there. As long as you hang onto your self hatred, He is pushed away.

You and God make a powerful team. With Him on board, you possess good stuff. You bring good stuff—the kind of stuff that makes it easier to rest in your “I am.” I am learning to let go of my perfectionism and rest. It really is a much better life and I have a much better impact on others too! How can it get any better than resting in your “I am”?


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