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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “Daring Don’t”

I imagine everyone has someone they really admire, just like Rainbow Dash in this episode. As a Christian, at the bare minimum, there are a number of figures in the Old Testament and New Testament that I can admire and look up to. In fact, one of the big tenets the apostle Paul made in the epistles was to be imitators of Lord Jesus Christ and to follow His example. However, I don’t know about everyone else, but if Jesus or most of the figures of the Bible were right here next to me in real life, I’d feel just as bad around them as Rainbow Dash if not worse.

I’ve mentioned in an earlier devotional about the problem of feeling inadequate or lesser than others. It’s a bad trait to have; making you constantly feel inferior when around other positive people and good role models, or even one’s peers. Rather than be encouraged and elevated to be better, I just focus on everywhere I’m deficient compared to them. This is a side effect of a mental sickness: perfectionism.

Perfectionism might not be listed in any DSM, but that doesn’t make it any less harmful. It represents the need to be flawless and perfect in everything says or does in order to feel any sense of value or approval. The central logic fallacy to it is that there is a perfect way to do absolutely everything in the world and that way is easily accessible, so there’s no excuse for not doing it other than personal flaws. This is also a vicious mental cycle that only leads to misery.

I myself suffered with it for years at its lowest point and I still suffer from it to an extent. It’s worst aspect is that it leaves absolutely no room for personal success or worth. Everything always reflects back badly on myself. Let’s say I get faced with a difficult task, problem, or challenge. What happens if I fail? Well, it’s all my fault. I didn’t try hard enough. I wasn’t as responsible as I should have been. I wasn’t smart enough to see this, that, or the other thing coming. I shouldn’t have been so lazy, dumb, incompetent, etc. But what happens if I succeed? It’s not much of an improvement. Sure, I did it, but only because of this external factor or that contribution, and it ended up being easier than I anticipated, so it was never really “me” who succeeded; it was due to luck. And I should have done it better. I should have either resolved the problem faster or not gotten caught up when I did. Other people would have handled it far more easily and quickly. In short, it still reflects on my inadequacy and shortcomings rather than being any way a testament to my ability. It should have been “done perfectly”, not just merely “done”.

Even worse is that, as with all mental sicknesses, it distorts what I hear and see in the world around me. That’s always a dangerous tendency, because it prohibits one from seeing the world the way it is or from hearing and understanding truth. It causes everything to be warped and biased instead, leading to a whole slew of downstream problems that make life miserable.

This has made life in the Church community, pardon the pun, a living Hell on more than one occasion for me; to say nothing of my faith and devotional life. The single most difficult passage I had a problem with, and still do from time to time, is Lord Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:48: “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” The reason it was so difficult was I was taking it out of context, as often happens with many lines of the Bible. I interpreted that line to be a command: “You have to be just as great and good and pure and holy and perfect as God is or you’re evil.”

You can imagine how that turned out. So I read the Bible…other people read it more and get more out of it. So I pray…other people spend days in prayer faithfully waiting for revelation or vision. So this passage jumped out to me…lots of other people are faithful enough to receive audible words from God. So I did something good…others have done far greater works. So I share the gospel every once in a while…others do it more often, more enthusiastically, and with far greater results. Rather than the Church and other Christians being something that could build me up and encourage me, it became something that tore me down and discouraged me. I could barely stand to be in a service because all I could see was everyone around me being “better” than me. In time, it even grew into bitter resentment. There were times I even shouted at God: “Why did you make me this way? Why did you create me to be so flawed? Did you just create me to make me be miserable my whole life until you cast me into Hell at the end of it?”

The truth of the matter was all of that was me. It was me with a warped, perfectionist mindset that had done all of that to myself. All of my misery was coming from my obsession with needing to be perfect in everything, and what I perceived as God’s “hate” for me was really my hate toward myself. Yet nothing could break that mental lock, and to this day I’ve only broken it in part. (My Asperger’s likely has something to do with it, as everything in the world is a black and white choice to me with my mind totally unable to see any gray area whatsoever.) Even hearing sermons about how flawed many followers of God were didn’t help, because all I ever answered was: “Well, they were flawed, but eventually they became perfect. I’m still flawed, so I’m lesser than them.”

We are called to be humble and to acknowledge our sinfulness before God, as well as to be grateful for the mercy shown to us through Lord Jesus Christ’s perfect sacrifice. Especially now as the Easter season is almost upon us. And part of that is acknowledging that the sacrifice was a gift from God, and bestowed without any merit on our part. But at some point, we have to have at least enough esteem in our own value and ability to match how God esteems us. Because if God truly thought we were worth nothing, why have Jesus be born into the world to begin with? And if God thinks I’m valuable enough to have Jesus die in my place, and I say I’m totally worthless and without merit, aren’t I contradicting God or calling him a liar?

Going back to Matthew 5:48, the context that Jesus was speaking that from was in regards to loving all people equally and not just the select people who do good things for us or are part of our community. Furthermore, the world “perfect” in that sense is more akin in Greek to meaning “complete” and lacking any flaw. Perfectionism is a serious, serious flaw. If anything, that passage is likely saying the opposite of what it is at face value. Be perfect…including by not letting perfectionism skew and warp me from within.

To close, I would like to share one of the earliest lines of scripture my Bible study group from college tried to have me memorize, and is useful to remember whenever one is feeling down and worthless in the eyes of God as well as man…

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11

Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you again that your love for us is without bounds and renewed each day in spite of whatever we have done or failed to do.Please help me to view myself the way you see me, so I will never be discouraged or downcast by comparing myself to others but instead will cling to the vision you have for me. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”