Humility vs Perfectionism

Reading: Mosiah 4:11

In our church, humility is a big deal.  Many stories in the Book of Mormon chasten us to be humble.  Sometimes, though, I get the wrong idea about what humility should be.

In Mosiah 4:11 King Benjamin exhorts his people to be humble, and suggests that if they continue to be humble then they will be more and more righteous througout their lives.  He says:

And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel.

As I read this verse recently I reflected on how sometimes, including a few times lately, I have felt pretty bad about myself.  But, I didn’t feel like those feeling were a good thing, or that they were helping me become better.  I realized that those feeling weren’t coming from humility, but from perfectionism.

Perfectionism is defined as demanding that I be perfect now instead of admitting my own “nothingness” before God.  So, while perfectionism may make me think I am being humble because the result is that I feel bad about myself, the truth is that I am being anything but humble.  The mere thought that I should be perfect discounts all of the help that God gives me to help me grow and become better over time.  When I acknowledge how flawed and helpless I am without God, and ask for his help, then I am being humble.  How great is it that true humility, in this case, actually causes me to feel better about myself!

With a toddler in the house it seems like it’s been one virus after another, and with all the sickness I’ve been too tired to really pay attention as I read my scriptures.  Today, instead of just getting angry at myself for falling behind I will pray for help to do better.

Can you tell the difference between when you are being a perfectionist and when you are being humble?  What does true humility look like?

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