Perfectionism is an impossible standard! For you and me, that is. God is perfectly perfect!
But to attain perfectionism, you may drive yourself nuts. Or you may face-plant into the wall of “I cannot do it” and give up and retreat. You may even find a frenemy in dark chocolate. This is my go-to happy place. What’s yours?
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Either way, all-or-nothing thinking turns into anxiety, even anger and hopelessness.
Jana, a mother of three boys and a nurse, worked part-time in the evening, and during the day she had the family on a tight schedule in order to get everything done: piano lessons and soccer practice for the kids and a book club and Zumba for her. When her all-or-nothing thinking turned into yelling–something she swore she’d never do when she became a mom–she didn’t see that her perfectionism played into the family tension. A wise counselor compassionately and truthfully pointed it out, and she agreed her heart needed to change.
Have you ever wanted to do it all or think you should do it all?
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Have you based your worth and success on how well you measure up to your standards or fulfilling your expectations?
- When you are driven to achieve and overdo, you live in fear that there is always something more you can do, another phone call to make, another website to check, another friend to check in on.
- When you hold exceptionally high expectations for yourself (or your family or coworkers), you may come across as pushy and demanding. Your relationships may suffer.
- When you compare your accomplishments to others, you may feel defeated and get grumpy or throw a pity party. No one shows up to pity parties. Too depressing!
Signs of Perfectionism
The all-or-nothing thinking of perfectionism overwhelms a person because, as I mentioned up top, it’s a myth. No one is perfect but God!
“Your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48, ESV
Very often someone with all-or-nothing thinking suffers from anger, anxiety, depression, or fatigue. Trying to keep up with overwhelming perfectionism is daunting. You just can’t do it. No one can. That you cannot be perfect doesn’t mean you are “less than” or “not enough.” It simply means you’re human.
Here are pictures of three signs of perfectionism.
Anger: When your perfect plans fall though, do you seethe or feel irritated? Do you lash out at a friend or family member? A common result: difficult relationships! Think about it. You don’t like anger directed at you and you may step away from an angry person or not return her phone calls. Proverbs 15:1 says,
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Anxiety: Do you feel uptight and nervous when you think about all you need to do? Do you worry that you’ll fail? Sometimes anxious people have physical symptoms such as nausea, insomnia, headaches, and fatigue, even panic attacks. Others develop ulcers. Talk with your medical doctor about physical manifestations of anxiety.
Depression: Do your unmet desires lead to sadness and self-recriminations? Are you disappointed with yourself that you failed to meet your high expectations? Do you say mean things to yourself, like “I’m a loser”? Depression feels like sadness, despair, hopelessness. Sometimes it has an organic cause, such as hormone imbalance. Again, talk with your medical doctor about physical causes of depression.
Out of the Perfectionism Trap
Your way out of perfectionism is to make a heart change and to look to your Creator for the answer.
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Here are 3 ways to end perfectionism:
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1. Accept the invitation to rest.
May I suggest that you write the verse below in a journal or your electronic device and read it daily?
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me,
for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30, ESV
When you get to the end of your abilities and energy, you need rest. Your mind and your body. You feel depleted and weary. The question is, how will you respond to this invitation? Do you value yourself and your family enough to rest?
2. Ask yourself a few questions.
To get to the heart of your perfectionism, ask yourself questions and jot down your answers. Ask yourself:
- Who am I trying to please? My boss, my friends, my parents, myself, God?
- Is my all-or-nothing thinking all about getting other people to accept me or to impress them?
- Do I think I can do life without God? That I don’t need him?
Now read your answers and look for a pattern. Is your pattern to please others or to get attention? Do you see another pattern? How can you change your thinking so that your thougts align with God’s?
3. Love God above all else.
You’re probably familiar with the Great Commandment.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27, ESV
When you love God above all else, your priorities and motivations change. You are more concerned with pleasing God who loves you lavishly than with pleasing yourself.
You’ll discover that you’ll remove some items from your calendar and rethink the best use of your time and talents.
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men. Colossians 3:23, ESV
Rethinking the best use of your time and talents means establishing God-honoring goals for life in every area: spiritual, family, social, intellectual, physical, occupational, financial, and emotional.
I invite you to use this download to help you plan your priorities for the purpose of loving God most of all. If you have questions or would like to set up a time to talk on the phone to see how biblical counseling would help you get out of the perfectionism trap, why not drop me a line here?
Counseling Hearts to Hope,
Anger! Do you blow up or clam up when you’re mad? Anger is among the most common emotions you experience. And it is impatient! So would you like to know how to replace your mad with patience?
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind ot one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31-32)
Root Cause of Anger
Anger surfaces when you a wrong–real or perceived. Here are a few examples. What would you add to this list?
- Your dog chews up your favorite shoes.
- Your 16 year old promises to clean her mess of a room but doesn’t.
- A girlfriend asks you to lunch and never shows.
- Your husband asks you to lie to his boss.
- Your job is “eliminated.”
Types of Anger
Have you heard someone say, “I never get angry,” and in the next breath, she complains or speaks in an irritated tone of voice?
It’s a misconception that anger is only “loud”–yelling, slamming doors, a cutting comment, rage. In truth, it may also be “quiet”–the silent treatment, gossip, self-pity, apathy. The former “blows up” while the latter “clams up.” Both are destructive.
When you’re angry, do you tend to blow up, clam up, or bounce between the two?
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Several years ago, I counseled a woman whose husband lost his well-paying job when the company learned he looked at pornography on his work computer. She never yelled. She never screamed. But she was red-hot angry inside. It showed up as headaches, sleeplessness, and worry.
Thankfully, she learnd the root of her anger and resolved it. Her husband was genuinely repentant, and she forgave him. And, most important, she handled her anger biblically. Among the verses she heeded was this:
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger (Ephesians 4:26).
A common assignment I give to counselees is keeping a thought journal. The journal I use helps them assess their anger, fear, or other difficult emotions. It also helps counselees make new, godly habits.
In counseling, I also ask questions that help reveal the reason behind the anger. Some are:
- What is going on that led to anger?
- How dis you react?
- What did you desire when you were angry? (Common ones are pride, people-pleasing, and security.)
- What were the consequences of your anger?
After you assess your anger, it’s time to turn from the false gods you identified in question 3 above. Then turn to Jesus: confess (agree with God) that you sinned, repent, and thank God for the forgiveness that Jesus provided through the cross.
Now choose to trust God and obey him. When you trust and obey, you’ll experience thankfulness as well as changes in your thoughts, emotions, and actions. And so peace and patience replace anger.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).
As a result, your faith grows. Your contentment deepens. You have more patience too.
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God gives you everything you need to live a victorious, godly life free of any anger problem.
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
You get a taste of heaven now.
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And God keeps teaching you more about himself as patience replaces anger.
Sharing hope with your heart,
Peace is a hot commodity today. We all want it in our anger-infused, Twitter-bombed world. But how?
Biblical counselor and psychologist Ed Welch
offers hope for change for people who struggle with irritation and want peace. Really, who likes anger? And as Welch sound-bites: To be angry is to destroy.
Yes, anger pours out testy words. Eye rolls and sighs
reveal the simmer. Slammed doors shake homes and relationships. Anger may whisper or shout, but is almost always destructive. And Jesus had much to say about anger and its antitode: God-honoring peace.
Welch fills the pages with scripture passages and with instruction to overcome anger. His target: the heart
. His method: letting you see the yuck of anger and inviting you to want treasure in heaven most of all. It’s a self-versus-God attitude and choice, isn’t it?.
On the path to peace, you’ll meet afresh the Prince of Peace: Jesus. You’ll also discover your need to forgive
. And pray. And bless an enemy. Welch suggests you read the meditations a day at a time. This way your mind and heart absorb all that is anger and hate it. You also learn to love peace and seek the Peace-Giver.
So if you’re sick of anger and want peace, read this little-big book–all 50 days.
Meet the Author
Edward T. Welch, M.Div., Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and faculty member at the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF). He earned a Ph.D. in counseling (neuropsychology) from the University of Utah and has a Master of Divinity degree from Biblical Theological Seminary. Ed has been counseling for over thirty years and has written extensively on the topics of depression, fear, and addictions.
Who doesn’t have ugly thoughts, at least once in a while? Good news: You can replace ugly thoughts with truthful thoughts and renew your mind. Here’s a tool for you.
So today you learn how to:
1. Identify an ugly thought you believe that’s true about you or your circumstance.
2. Recognize the link between your thoughts and your feelings and replace your ugly thought with a new thought.
3. See change in your emotions and actions as you renew your thoughts. A helpful tool is my Transform Your Thoughts Journal. See it here.
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What’s better, this process has helped hundreds of my counselees renew their thinking. It is based on scripture verses like Romans 12:2 and Ephesians 4:22-24:
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Step 1: Identify
First, on notebook paper, set up your categories like this:
UGLY THOUGHT. . .EMOTIONS. . .ACTIONS
Then under “Ugly Thought” write your current or recurring negative, ungodly thought. Then jot down the resulting emotions under “Emotions.” Now, list your behaviors under “Actions.” Here’s an example.
UGLY THOUGHT: “I’m stupid”
EMOTION(s): Anger, depression, loneliness
ACTION(s): Yell at the kids, slam the door, eat a bag of chips
Step 2: Replace
Now write three new categories. Under “Truthful Thought” replace the ugly thought with a biblical truth or a scripture verse. Then write the likely resulting feelings under “New Emotion” and likely behaviors under “New Action.” On your notebook paper set up your categories like this:
TRUTHFUL THOUGHT. . .NEW EMOTIONS. . .NEW ACTIONS
Here’s a corresponding example.
TRUTHFUL THOUGHT: God says all his works are wonderful, so this means I’m an okay person and He’ll help me.
NEW EMOTION(s): Contentment, courage
NEW ACTION(s): Hug the kids, smile, complete the job application
Step 3: See Change
Lastly, chart the ugly thoughts you believe, your emotions, and your actions daily. As soon as you recognize an ugly thought, replace it with a truthful thought.
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And ask God in prayer to help you believe his truth. As you stick with it, you’ll begin to see a change in your emotions and actions as you replace ugly thoughts with the truth. Please be patient and persevere.
You didn’t develop poor thinking patterns overnight. In fact, they may have begun in childhood and are ingrained in your thinking. And so it’ll take weeks, sometimes months, as you to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in the renewing of your mind. Have hope. You CAN do it with God’s help.
Question: What is truthful thought you’d like to have in place of an ugly thought?
Counseling Hope to Your Heart,
When you embrace the truth of who God is, your burdens lift. . .even in trials. Dr. Donna Hart, PhD, listed in Heart2Heart Counselor Directory here, shares loving truth. Her article appeared first here on her website and is used with permission.
When our burdens seem too heavy a weight to carry, we can be tempted to believe that God has unjustly piled them on us. The heaviness of the burden may lure us toward unbiblical views leading us to distrust his goodness. Then we may feel depressed.
False belief: I should get what I want
One belief we are prone to have is our right to certain things or relationships. We can mistakenly believe we have a “right” to what we want. We fail to realize the truth that it is a blessing to have. It is not a right.
Then anger often emerges, prompting us to doubt God’s goodness and faithfulness. This path of thought will lead us to presume we know better than God. And we will likely try to do things our way.
Do you ever think God is arbitrarily making you miserable? If so, you may base your thinking on persistent feelings of discomfort, rather than upon God’s words of promise. So it’s is no wonder you’re miserable!
Asaph Questions God’s Character
Asaph questions God’s character in a similar way in Psalm 77:7-9:
Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show His favor again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld His compassion?
Fortunately, Asaph asks his questions from a place of faith in God. Our questions may be like Asaph’s, but they may not be asked from a position of faith.
An unbiblical interpretation of our lives can lead us down a slippery slope of false beliefs, which cause us to become more deeply saddened, thinking the future holds no hope.
False Belief: This world is all there is
Our hearts can start to think this world is all there is and seek only temporal relief rather than longing for his glory. Second Corinthians 4:17-18 says,
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
When we continually reject the truth of the Word by believing our own thoughts and emotions about our circumstances, we start to feel guilty. We also assume he has rejected us, leaving us with little hope.
Our hearts often cry out as Asaph did, asking if his will ever return. But we must remember that it is not true that he has forgotten to be gracious or that he has withdrawn his love, leaving us victims.
We must rebuke the lies that cause us to think God is standing with a raised hammer just waiting for the opportunity to lower it on our heads.
Asaph foresaw the inevitable judgment on Israel. In his heart he cries to God as he anticipates the coming misery of the Israelites’ suffering in captivity. He voices his fears but continues to appeal to to God’s divine power to change all that is to come.
False Belief: Trials are bad
The truth is, God ordains our trials to teach us to trust him and to grow our faith. In those trials, we must exercise a strenuous faith and give God glory and honor regardless of the circumstances. Be determined to resist self-focused desires of insisting on comfortable lives with easy answers, and convenient timetables.
As we learn to give God the glory and honor him no matter the circumstances, he will help us to. . .
- make discerning decisions with the right perspective
- grow in our faith
- persevere with joy
Let us learn to not gaze long and hard at our own suffering. Rather, may we stay focused on the promises God has set before us.
Sharing Hope with Your Heart,