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Perfectionism is a Shield

February 20, 2014

I am not perfect. And neither are you.

Let’s rest right here for a minute. Take a deep breath. Inhale, exhale. Clouds

That is really hard to say and even harder to admit as truth. But, we aren’t perfect. And all the energy that we spend trying to be perceived as perfect is wasted. Yes, wasted. We rarely fool anyone besides ourselves so the energy is wasted. Why do we go to so much trouble?

Brene’ Brown, author, professor, researcher, has said that we play this game to shield ourselves. We do it to protect ourselves from feeling vulnerable. This definition of perfectionism in Daring Greatly, makes it clear to me:

Perfectionism is not the same things as striving for excellence. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth. Perfectionism is a defensive move. It’s the belief that if we can do things perfectly and look perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame. Perfectionism is a twenty-ton shield that we lug around, thinking it will protect us, when in fact it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from being seen.

Brene’ Brown’s work is largely about relationships that we build with people around us and I have been blessed, and challenged, by her work. For our conversation here, I wonder about how many of us strive to keep a twenty-ton shield between ourselves and God? How many of us attempt to avoid the shame we believe God will inflict on us by shoving this perfect façade in front of us? I see quite a few.

They come to see me for spiritual direction and wax eloquent about their complicated and dedicated practice of prayer, Scripture reading, generosity, and service. When I ask them, “Why are you here?”, their response usually contains an element of “I want more. I want the next level. Give it to me! What else can I do to make God love me?”


What about you? Do you hold a shield so heavy that your arms are quivering and your back is aching? Maybe, just for a moment, you could lower it an inch or two to see the loving gaze of the One who formed you. Maybe, just for a second, you could let that love through your shield. Because that is the danger of a shield. Not only does it keep you hidden, it keeps you from receiving…even the good stuff.

 Matthew 3:17  And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

You are also God’s beloved. And God is well-pleased in you. Come out of hiding!

If you would like to talk to someone about the shield between you and God, please email me. Let’s visit…by phone, by Skype, or in person. God never meant for you to lug that thing around, everywhere you go.



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