I went to the post office and put the last Christmas gift in the mail today. Yay, right?
What should be a feel-good moment of accomplishment is actually an embarrassment. It’s the second week of January. All I wanted was the perfect gift for each person on my list.
Poring over little piles of printed material, surfing through multitudes of websites and ads, I decided on the exact car that was meant just for me. That one took only two years to figure out.
And now I’m late with this blog post. It was scheduled to be posted yesterday. (Sigh.) I have a reputation for procrastination.Gallup’s StrengthsFinder revealed to me a handful of years ago my top five (out of 34) “strengths,” and among them, as No. 4, is Deliberate.
A strength. I prefer calling it a liability … along with a couple of the other top fives — Responsibility (my No. 1) and Empathy (my No. 5). If I were using my Deliberate strength appropriately, I would gather facts, weigh them, and make a decision. But Responsibility and Empathy get in the way and make a mess of things. I subconsciously assume responsibility for making sure my actions please everyone else. (Even though the enemy is always working against me, I can’t give him all the credit when he is successful. I can choose whether or not I believe I’m capable of making an informed, intelligent decision.)
I was exhausted living according to how others will react. The Holy Spirit began to stir inside of me. I knew I needed a new way of thinking.
Change the way you think and you will change the way you live.
Like a two-year-old, I began scrutinizing my every thought and action, exploring my motivation. Why do I think that? Why did I say that? Why did I do that?
I didn’t like some of the answers I was hearing from myself: If I make a mistake, I’ll disappoint them. They will laugh at me. They’re going to judge me.
But I needed to dig further than that. I couldn’t lay all the blame on others. There was a root, and I found it: perfectionism. My truth was, If I am perfect, I will be accepted. If I have their approval, they won’t go away.
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10
During a small-group conversation one day, I half-jokingly commented, “I don’t want to ruin my image.”
“What image is that?” someone asked.
Acceptable. Perfect. Intelligent. Capable, I silently reasoned with myself.
Several times, scripture told me I was already all of those things.
“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” Ephesians 1:4
“Others were given in exchange for you. I traded their lives for yours because you are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you.” Isaiah 43:4
“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13
The focus of my efforts had been misplaced. It is Christ’s love demonstrated on the cross — not the demigods created in my mind — that makes me perfect, acceptable, loved, and capable. The Righteous Judge upholds me and frees me from the worry of how others perceive me and treat me (Psalm 9:4). It is Christ’s love for me that deserves my motivation!
It’s obvious I haven’t completely kicked the habit. I am a work in progress, but I am not quite the procrastinator I once was. Now I discern my true motivation by answering these questions: What is my motivation in this decision? Would God be pleased with my real reasons for making this choice?
“A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart.” (Proverbs 21:2) When my heart seeks to please the Lord, no other opinion matters.
Blog post finished. Thanks for reading. Now excuse me while I try to decide what to make for dinner.
Because you are what God says that you are! You are enough!
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Pam Freitag Weyant traded the harsh Midwestern winters for the sunny South. Her best friends are her stenography machine (she works as a freelance court reporter), her aged but adorable cocker spaniel Jake, and words. She is grateful for time spent traveling, writing creative nonfiction, and working out. Her goal each day is to share her story with others so they may also find freedom in a redemptive Savior. Read more of Pam’s Breath on Paper bio here.