I struggle with perfectionism. I keep things tidy and craft meals and sentences with care. I like correct answers, excellent grades, and jobs done all the way. So, as you can imagine, my sinful heart needed teaching about which things are important and which are not. So, God gifted me a husband who is my opposite, children with minds of their own, and the job of home education.
When my children were young, I spent my time cleaning up after them, cooking for them, and cleaning the kitchen. I’d get mad at my husband for leaving things where they don’t belong instead of putting them away. There were moments in which I’d explode over a pair of socks on the floor or get angry with myself for accidentally making another mess that I had to clean up. Then, my feelings about those things would spill over so that I was generally cranky and unpleasant. I wasn’t reasonable, and I certainly wasn’t representing Christ to my children at all. I had plenty of grace for others but very little for myself. Over the past decade, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I’ve learned principles that changed my attitude.
I only control myself.
Expecting other people to do things my way and to the same standard I hold myself to will lead to constant disappointment and broken relationships. I don’t want my kids to remember me as a person who had to have her way all the time. These other people, you know, the one I married and the ones I birthed, they aren’t here to wreck my day. They are just others with their other needs, other plans, and other desires. It was pretty easy to get the kids to do as I pleased when they were small enough to be picked up and moved. But since we have giants here, that didn’t last very long. I can lead, request assistance, or instill habits. But I can’t demand my way all the time. I keep demanding for matters of safety and health, not for arbitrary things (like the location of socks or shoes).
My self-worth is not based on the tidiness of my living room.
My mother might think that I should work harder at vacuuming and dusting because she works harder at vacuuming and dusting. While we do spend time cleaning our house as a family each week, I don’t have time to spend perfecting each room. We live here all the time. I could follow people around and clean things all day, every day, and I’d still never finish. So, instead of keeping a perfect house, I keep a house in which the cleaning is done, and I put the time that saves into building relationships with my people. I want my house to be comfortable, a spot that my sons look forward to returning to live for now and to visit later. It should be a place that offers beauty, goodness, and love to my family and our guests. My self-worth is in Christ, where it belongs.
My people are more important than my plans.
I still write an essential to-do list in the morning, and I plan to get those things done in the day. But sometimes, others need me to shelve my list and help them with theirs instead. I’ve been finishing this article for days, but I’ve needed to assist my kids and my husband instead. While I wanted to complete my own plan, there were no items on my list with hard deadlines, so I paused my activities and spent time with them instead. Younger-Me would have been enormously frustrated with not being able to check off my tasks. But Older-Me understands that the days in which I’ll have children regularly interrupting my plans are numbered and can adapt more quickly to the needs of others. Perhaps this is just something that comes more easily with practice.
This piece will take me forever to edit because I’ll overthink all the things. But these three ideas have shaped me into a more malleable person who believes that I should make plenty of room for relationships. I’m not sure how to finish it up, so instead of taking the time to perfect it, I’m going to leave it as good enough and go pick up a kid from Driver’s Ed.