By Katina Wilkins, Morning by Morning Life Coach
Do you ever find yourself running hard after doing everything perfectly, trying, stretching, achieving, only to find yourself exhausted and empty and then not wanting to do anything at all?
This was me. Either I was striving, achieving, reaching—or—waiting, distracting, hiding. From the outside, if you were to see me, you might see someone who is doing great, fantastic, maybe even amazing, because that is the persona I wanted you to see. But, especially at home, the stubbornness would peak its head and I was not doing things I needed to get done.
Let’s take house cleaning as an example. I would resist the never ending chore of cleaning house. I would get it all done if company was coming over—after all, there is a short, finite time where everything had the ability to be perfect—but when the guests would leave and the task became menial and unrewarding, I would resist it. There is something frustrating for me about the never-ending task. Since it can’t stay perfect, why try? Right?
One day I decided to bring this to the Lord and ask Him about this never-ending battle. I was finding that I was still evaluating myself on the non-existent results of the things of which I procrastinated. So my thoughts would go something like this, “My house needs cleaned. Why bother, it is just going to get dirty anyway? Does anyone even care? Do I even care?... I should have a clean house. Actually, my husband DOES care. I am such a bad wife because I have not cleaned the house.” And then I would wallow in my shame…which, by the way, did not motivate me to start cleaning but made me feel even worse about the whole thing and want to procrastinate even more. Now, some of you reading this are thinking, “Just get up and do it!” You are doers and I am so proud of you for getting things done. But some of you know exactly what I am talking about and you are trapped in the same cycle. The Lord is showing me I am not alone, and someone needs to hear this!
So, as I explored this with the Lord, He showed me that I was getting trapped in what He helped me coin, the “Perfection-Procrastination Cycle.” A lot of how I identify myself depends on what part of the cycle I am on. If I am on the Perfection side of the cycle, I am doing everything right. Perfect in fact. I have made the perfect meal. My house is in perfect order. I am getting kudos from my boss at work. I am having the perfect hair day. You know what I mean. Everything is working on all cylinders and I am on top of it all. Then, when either I cannot attain perfection, or I am tired of keeping all the balls in the air, or I am tired of maintaining up the “perfect” image, I slip into the Procrastination part of the cycle where I wallow in my not enough attitude and the “I don’t feel like doing anything” disposition. Nothing gets done or if it does, it comes with a lot of complaining. Then when everything gets where I cannot stand it anymore and I can see everything around me needs improvement, I jump into action and everything then has to be “perfect” yet again and the cycle keeps spinning. It is either ALL or NONE.
Do you see what is happening? What I am doing is placing my value on what I am doing or have done instead of on what God says I am. Am I cleaning the house? No, so I am a bad wife. Company is coming, am cleaning the house? Yes, and I am awesome! Do you see how the focus is on what I am based on what I am doing? It is rather exhausting. Procrastination doesn’t always start this way. Sometimes we procrastinate because we really dread doing the task because we greatly dislike it. Or we procrastinate because we think we have more time or need the adrenaline to get us motivated. But with procrastination almost always comes a level of anxiety. And with the anxiety can also come shame, fear, dread, etc. which slowly creeps into our being before we are aware.
I write this because I believe that I am not the only one who gets stuck in this cycle and wants out! So much of this cycle has become such a part of our identity and way of interacting in life that we don’t even realize the stronghold it has on us. So how do we get out of it?
The first step in all things we want to change is AWARENESS. When you get on a kick or in a slump, ask yourself, what are my thoughts? Am I letting this define me? In our English language, we often replace DOING words with BEING words, and we have been taught this from a young age. When we did something bad, we were told we were “bad girls.” But are you a bad girl? Or are you just a girl who is doing something bad? My friend, you are not a bad girl. You are just someone who is stuck in a cycle who needs a way out of the constant rotation. If you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ, He has already made you new. There is nothing He sees when he looks at you that is bad. You might be caught in a cycle of sin and shame, but you are still good. You are still redeemable. You are still loved by God. When God sees you, he sees Jesus overlaid and under a person in the process of becoming more and more like Jesus with the more you love and trust Him. When you sin or fall short or procrastinate, He sees a hurting soul who needs a savior, which just reiterates our need for Jesus to come to this earth to save us. He sees that SAME hurting, soul when you are doing everything perfectly. God never expects us to be perfect.
Let me repeat that, GOD NEVER EXPECTS US TO BE PERFECT!
Do you know what that means? That means that even when we think we are perfect or striving to be perfect, we are just as sinful as when we are not trying and wallowing in regret and shame in our procrastination.
I think that people, including me, sometimes get bogged down in the idea that Jesus is perfect so if we want to be Christ-like in our faith, we must also be perfect. Is that you? Maybe you were even told that outright. Maybe you assumed it as you were criticized for not being enough. But what God keeps showing me over and over is that we are never EXPECTED to be perfect by God. God created us as humans and in our very human nature, we are not going to be perfect on this side of heaven. He loves us right where we are. And our faith and our process of being Christ-like is done through Christ, not through us. We can strive all we want, and we will never be good enough. NEVER. We were never meant to be. We are made in the image of God, but we are not gods.
This act of striving for perfection is exhausting. No wonder you are exhausted. It is like a hamster on a spinning wheel, we are working and working and not going anywhere. To the world we may look like we are doing it all, but inside, we are hurting, exhausted, spent and we wait for that next burst of energy. And here’s the worse part—we can keep it up for much of our life, but at some point, we can’t do it anymore. Then what? If that is you right now, I hope you are crawling into the lap of your heavenly Father that just wants to cuddle you, stroke your hair, and tell you, “I am proud of you, my good and faithful servant, not because of what you have done, but because you have come home to me.” Like in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32; Prodigal Son Sermon). God is just waiting for us to return and find rest, provision, and assurance in Him. ASK Him for strength so that it is by HIS strength, by actually RESTING in Him, that we have what we need to endure.
Next, EVALUATE. Who are you trying to please? If it is GOD, know that nothing you do or don’t do will make Him more pleased with you. He wants you to use your skills, abilities, talents and spiritual gifts to honor Him to your fullest ability, but it is not to make him love you any more than He already does. He takes pleasure in seeing us use all these gifts, especially when He calls to us to a task. Sometimes, we mistakenly believe this means we need to be perfect, and if we can’t do it perfectly, we don’t want to try. But really, my friend, when you think of it, it means when we TRY, we are actually using all our gifts! Just use them, to bring Him glory. Our act of trying and using these gifts for God’s glory brings Him pleasure. What He does with our efforts is what will make it amazing, not us.
If it is MAN you are trying to please (a person in your life, or even you), it might be time to sit down and consider why that person’s opinion of you is greater than God’s. Does that person’s opinion define you? Should it? Who are you letting define you? People’s approval is fleeting. You are enough for one minute to satisfy what they see but then next you will be empty again, striving for that approval and satisfaction.
Finally, ACT! Like Nike says, Just Do It! After reading this, where are you on the cycle, who are you trying to please, what are those erroneous thoughts that are preventing you from being GOD’s best? Pray about it. If you need help figuring this out, find someone to talk to about this, a friend, mentor, coach, or counselor. There may be a deeper root of depression that might need to be addressed through medication or other therapy. By talking it through, God can bring things to light that you didn’t ever see.
So sister, do not rely on your own strength. Do not place your identity in what you do. Rest your weary soul in the palm of your Father’s hands. You are His child. You are one of His precious possessions. Rest in that. Get your strength in that. Do what it takes to KNOW that from every fiber of your being. SO when your house needs to cleaned and you do not have the strength to do it, tell yourself, “I am a child of God” then turn to Him for strength and ask Him, “Please Lord, help me honor you by honoring my family and using my gifts from you to clean this house.” And when things are going great and your house is sparkling clean, thank the Lord for giving you that strength. Because He is the one who gives us what we need to accomplish His good and perfect will.
Heavenly Father, I am praying for my sisters who are riding the perfection-procrastination cycle. They are stuck in this ebb and flow of self-identity that is driven from what they are doing instead of who they are in You. I pray that you help them open their eyes to being on this cycle by taking their eyes from being on themselves and what they can accomplish to being on You, the author and perfecter of all things. Give them courage and strength to get out of the cycle. Teach them their true identity in You, as their daughter of the Most High King who reaches down to earth to stroke their hair and tell them that they are enough just by loving you with all their hearts, all their souls, and all their strength. It is by your Holy Spirit that this is at all possible because you make all things new. We ask these things in the precious and powerful name of Jesus Christ. May you have all the glory in everything you accomplish through us.
The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. –Zephaniah 3:17