Archive for the ‘perfectionism’ Tag

Faith And Doubt Do Not Mix

Reading: “Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ,” Elder Kevin W. Pearson of the Seventy, April 2009 General Conference, Saturday Afternoon Session

Everyone at some point (or more likely, several points) must find out for themselves the truth of the gospel.  The world is full of ideas and experiences that cause us to doubt gospel teachings, and one must live in a hole in the ground in order to avoid them.  Other times our own behavior can cause doubt to come into our lives. In his talk Elder Pearson encourages us to strengthen our faith and to overcome the doubts that enter into our hearts and minds.  He says,

Faith and fear cannot coexist. One gives way to the other. The simple fact is we all need to constantly build faith and overcome sources of destructive disbelief. The Savior’s teaching comparing faith to a grain of mustard seed recognizes this reality… We do have a choice. We get what we focus on consistently. Because there is an opposition in all things, there are forces that erode our faith. Some are the result of Satan’s direct influence. But for others, we have no one but ourselves to blame. These stem from personal tendencies, attitudes, and habits we can learn to change.

Elder Pearson then talked about how doubt can lead to downward cycle where our doubt leads to discouragement, which leads to distraction, which leads to lack of diligence, which leads to disobedience, which lead to disbelief.  In order to turn the cycle around we must make choices that help our faith to grow, such as greater obedience, praying for greater understanding, studying the scriptures, and so on.

Lately I realized that there is one area where I often have doubt.  I doubt that each of us as children of our Heavenly Father has potential to change and become more like God.  Sometimes this doubt is caused by the actions I see others take, and sometimes it is caused by my disappointment with my own choices and lack of improvement.  This doubt inevitably leads to discouragement as I feel bad about my own perceived lack of worth.  Discouragement leads to distraction, which seems to confirm my original fears of my own and other’s hopelessness.  However, when I read or do things that help remind me that we are all children of God and that the Savior suffered the Atonement so that all of us can repent and become better with his help then I am able to strengthen my faith and overcome the cycle.

Today I am going to thank Heavenly Father for my flaws and ask for help to see my potential and the potential in others.

Is there some doubt that continually causes you trouble, or that has caused you trouble in the past?  How can you help your faith grow to be greater than that doubt?

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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?

Pacing Yourself

Reading: Mosiah 4:27, D&C 10:4

And I’m back!  A nasty flu is currently working its way through our house, and I’ve been a casualty for the past few days.  My husband has been a huge help in taking care of me and the baby while we’ve been sick, but now it’s my turn to do the supporting as my husband came down with the flu last night.

Being sick is not fun, but it has helped me realize how hard I’ve been on myself lately.  Sunday I was so miserable I stayed in bed all day, yet I still felt guilty for the things I didn’t do that day, such as cleaning the kitchen, making dinner, going to church, etc.  Eventually I realized it was silly to expect so much more of myself than I could possibly do and gave myself a break.

While I may expect myself to do much better than I am able, God only expects me to do my best.  In Mosiah 4:27 it says:

And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.

I often try to run faster than I have strength.  One of my biggest flaws is that I always want to do things bigger and better and more perfect, but as I let my goals balloon out of control they become unaccomplishable.  Over time, I get burned out and feel quite bad about myself.  I end up doing much worse than if I had just kept my goals at a reasonable level in the first place. I have to constantly remind myself that while I should be doing my best, I can’t do it all perfect right away.

Today I am still not totally 100%.  Plus, I have sick husband and baby to take care of.  So, I’m going to stick to only 3 goals: fold and put away the laundry, clean the shower, and call to make an appointment I’ve been putting off.  Until those three things are done I’m not allowed to get any ideas about getting the whole house clean, or reading a whole book, or any great exercise efforts, or any other things my brain keeps trying to convince me I need to do today.

How do you pace yourself to make sure you’re not trying to do too much?  How do you know what your best is, and how do you know if you are doing it?

By The Law No Man is Justified

Reading: 2 Nephi 2:5

Laws are necessary for things to function. For example, just think about what your house would be like without the law of gravity.  Or, think what our country would be like without a government.  Chaos, disorder, even violence and misery would result. The laws that God gives us are equally as necessary.  If we were not commanded to love our neighbor, for example, we would naturally act selfishly, causing pain and misery.

However, a side effect of having these laws is that once we break them we are subject to the consequences.  And, since no human being has ever been totally perfect except Christ, each and every one of us would be subject to punishment.  And, not just a little slap on the wrist, but eternal punishment, because we could never meet the demands of justice.  In 2 Nephi 2:5 it says:

And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off. Yea, by the temporal law they were cut off; and also, by the spiritual law they perish from that which is good, and become miserable forever.

Sometimes I get the idea, subconsciously, that it is my obeying the commandments that brings me salvation.  However, if it were my obedience alone that were to save me then I would have been condemned a long, long time ago when I first committed a sin.  Salvation cannnot come through obeying the law, because the law is exact and unyielding and leaves no room for growth or improvement.

It is very humbling to think that no matter how good I get at obedience, I will always be totally dependent on the Savior for salvation.  Although sometimes I may think that I am better than other people because I appear more obedient, the truth is that I am just as dependent on the Savior as even the most sinful person ever to live.  We are all condemned by the law, even the best of us.

As I prepared to write this I realized a misunderstanding of this principle can lead to all kinds of bad behavior.  It can lead to pride, or it can lead to perfectionism, or it can lead to self-hate, and so on.  When I hear people talk about why they left the LDS church, it seems that very often it can be traced back to the misunderstanding of this principle.  If  you believe you will be saved only so much as you perfectly obey the law, then you will be miserable because no one can perfectly obey the law except the Savior.

This is NOT a license to go out and do whatever you want.  Later on I will talk about why to gain salvation we must do our best to obey the law, although most of us will never achieve perfection in this life.

This past week I have been trying to work on not being so prideful, so today I am going to try and watch my thoughts and catch myself when I start to think I am better than other people.  Then, tonight, I will write in my journal about what I noticed and about how this principle helped me to see my pride.

When you realize that you are not saved by the law, or by perfect obedience, does that change how you think about some things? How does it change?

Jesus Christ is the Only Path to Happiness

Reading: “The Way,” Elder Lawrence E. Corbidge of the Seventy, October 2008 General Conference, Saturday Afternoon Session

The Savior Jesus Christ is the center of our worship.  This is because everything we are and do is possible through him.  Through the Atonement, we are able to repent and to return to the presence of God.  Elder Corbidge’s talk is a beautiful reminder of these important truths.

One thing that I especially appreciated was his pointing out that everyone is able to obtain the blessings of the gospel.  He says,

While the Lord’s invitation to follow Him is the highest of all, it is also achievable by everyone, not because we are able, but because He is, and because He can make us able too. “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind [everyone, living and dead] may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.” (3rd Article of Faith)

We are dependent on the Savior for everything, even our own ability to repent.  And, we need not feel hopeless because the Savior will help us to overcome our weaknesses.

I have written several times now about perfectionism.  When we are perfectionists  we demand that we be perfect now, instead of allowing God to help us to become better over time.  The Savior wants us to be perfect eventually, and he is willing to help us if we but ask and are ready to receive his help.  Perfectionism is something I often struggle with, so every reminder that God wants to help me better over time is encouraging and uplifting.

When I was a teenager I came up with several goals for my life, including getting married in the temple and graduating from college, and then set out how to achieve those goals.  Since I’ve achieved most of those, I think today I will sit down and write down goals for the next 10-20 years of my life and think about how to achieve them.  They may be obvious, but by thinking about them actively I will be better able to achieve them.

There was a lot in Elder Corbidge’s talk, and I just focused on one thing that meant a lot to me.  What stood out to you?

Creation and Compassion: Keys to Happiness

Reading: “Happiness, Your Heritage,” President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, General Relief Society Meeting, Sept 28, 2008

In the past I have written a few times about perfectionism.  When we are perfectionists, we demand that we be perfect right now and forget that becoming perfect is a life long pursuit, with which God wants to help us.  When I read Elder Uchtdorf’s talk, that is immediately what I thought about.  In his cooking story he shows how his wife is never fully satisfied with her cooking, that she demands more of herself than maybe she needs to.

Elder Uchtdorf gives us two ways to combat bad feelings in our lives, such as those that come from perfectionsim.

First, he encourages us to create.  He is careful to leave the definition of creation wide open.  He points out that while we may not be as artistic as others, we all have talents.  I know that few things make me happier than having a really clean house, or finishing a project, or even writing in my blog.

Second, he encourages us to have compassion for others.  He encourages us to seek out others and help with whatever problems they may have.  He says that when we help others to overcome their problems, we will feel better ourselves.  I know that when I feel like I’ve helped someone to feel better, especially my husband or my baby, I feel a lot better about myself.

His last statement is a promise that if we try to obey the commandments of God, and live the gospel, we will be able to overcome those feelings of inadequacy and other trials we may face.  He said,

My dear sisters, I have a simple faith. I believe that as you are faithful and diligent in keeping the commandments of God, as you draw closer to Him in faith, hope, and charity, things will work together for your good. I believe that as you immerse yourselves in the work of our Father—as you create beauty and as you are compassionate to others—God will encircle you in the arms of His love. Discouragement, inadequacy, and weariness will give way to a life of meaning, grace, and fulfillment.

So, to apply Elder Uchtdorf’s teachings today I’m going to find something to create and also try to do an act of compassion.  I’m not sure what I’ll do yet, and I’m really not sure what will happen.  I will let you know.

What are times in your life where an act of creation or compassion helped you to deal with bad feelings or bad circumstance?

Stress Management

Reading: “Dealing With Stress and Discouragement,” Ensign, Feb. 1990

Yesterday we found out that we got the apartment we were hoping to get, and we will be able to move tomorrow evening.  As of this moment, I have not even started to pack.  While I’m very happy to be moving to a new place, it is also scary to face such a big change.  Moving is stressful.  So, today I read an article on how to deal with stress.

The article, which does not have an author listed, suggests several ways to deal with or reduce stress:

  • Be realistic in your expectations
  • Keep spiritually fit
  • Get out of debt
  • Set priorities and goals
  • Change habits and routines
  • Change your pace
  • Share your frustrations with friends or in a journal
  • Relax and enjoy life
  • Don’t forget humor

As a former sufferer of an anxiety disorder, I also have found many ways that are essential to me in dealing with stress.  These include:

  • Exercise
  • Purposeful relaxation (a.k.a. conscious relaxation, meditation, visualization, self-hypnosis, choose whatever name makes you feel most comfortable)
  • Journal writing
  • Daily scripture study
  • A good night’s sleep
  • Regular, healthy meals
  • Realizing that it’s perfectly okay to feel stressed out sometimes (or not getting stressed about being stressed)
  • Being willing to ask for help (whether it is help getting a problem taken care of, or professional help to overcome depression or anxiety)

One thing this article stated that I thought was a good point was that stress can be good for us, if we approach problems as challenges and if we do not try to do too much. I know I am much happier when I am enjoying a challenge than when I am bored with nothing to do.

Normally I would have tried to find an article that is more scripture based.  This article seemed more like a compendium of advice than an explanation of some scriptural topic.  However, it did fit what I needed to hear today.  So, today, I’m going to continue to give myself a break – we have a lot to do and not a lot of time to do it!  It will be better if I relax and maybe let a few things slide than trying to do everything perfect in the limited time I have.

How do you deal with stress?  Everybody has different ways of relaxing, and what works for me may not work for you.  Still, if you’ve found some great way to deal with stress I’d love to hear it!

Weaknesses As Strengths

Reading: “Finding Strength in Christ,” Michael D. Barnes, BYU Devotional July 1, 2008

This devotional was another great piece on perfectionism and dealing with our weaknesses.

One thought shared by Barnes was the idea that we should not ask that our weaknesses simply be taken away from us.  Rather, our weaknesses are a gift to help us on our path to perfection.  Through weaknesses, he says, we will be made stronger.

While listening to this talk (I subscribe to the BYU recent speeches podcast, and that is how I found it) I also thought of a quote I shared yesterday while doing my visiting teaching.  Preident Elder Lorenzon Snow said,

We believe that we are the offspring of our Father in heaven, and that we possess in our spiritual organizations the same capabilities, powers and faculties that our Father possesses, although in an infantile state, requiriing to pass through a certain cours or ordeal by which they will be dveloped and improved according to the heed we give to the principles we have received.

That quote made me think of my own little daughter who is just learning to crawl.  While she is definitely my daughter, and will definitely someday will be able to walk (providing there are no accidents), in the meantime she must work very hard to develop the skills that will lead her to that ability. It is not just simply given to her, but rather she must work constantly for months before she will able to master that ability.

Likewise, for us, we have weaknesses now that will help us as we work towards perfection.  When we humbly seek help for those weaknesses, rather than trying to force them out of their lives, they will help us rather than hinder us.  Over time and through much effort we will eventually become like God, provided we don’t fall into sin.  Just like over time and through much effort my daughter will someday walk and talk, provided she does not encounter some physically debilitating accident.

I talk about perfectionism a lot because it is a big weakness of mine.  I am not very patient, and I want everything to be better right now.  Today I’m going to try to be more patient, with myself and with others.

What weaknesses do you have that have also helped you to grow in some way?  If you feel comfortable sharing, drop a note in the comments.  Or, you’re welcome to share whatever other thoughts you have on the topic.

Christ Saves Us Because We Can’t Save Ourselves

Reading: BD Atonement and attending scirptures, especially Moses 5:8, Mosiah 13:28, Mosiah 13:32, Mosiah 2:20-25

Recently I wrote about perfectionsim and how part of the reason we become perfectionists is a misunderstanding of the Atonement. This particular misunderstanding seemed to be especially in my thoughts today as I read through the entry for Atonement in the Bible Dictionary.

Sometimes people (including me) get the idea that is all up to us to save ourselves by getting rid of sin. This can lead to pride if you think you’re doing a good at it, or depression if you think you’re doing poorly. However, it is not up to us to save ourselves because we are totally and wholly dependent on Christ for our salvation. Christ helps us to overcome our sin and also saves us from our sin, the only thing we are required to do is to work at it and accept his help. King Benjamin does a really great job of explaining this in Mosiah 2:20-25:

I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace on with another–
I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another–I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.
And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandment ye should prosper in the land, and he never doth very from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandment he doth bless you and proper you.
And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him.
And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he that commanded you, for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have y to boast?
And now I ask, can ye say aught of yourselves? I answer you, Nay. Ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth; yet ye were created of the dust of the earth; but behold, it belongeth to him who created you.

The Savior wants to help us overcome our sin. He does not want us to do it ourselves, because he knows we cannot. We are saved only through Christ, and not through our own efforts.

Last time I wrote about perfectionism I said that when I started to get down on myself for some old bad habit or persistent weakness of mine I would stop, say a prayer asking for help in overcoming that particular problem, and then move on to thinking or doing something more positive. Over the past couple weeks as I have done this I have felt so much better about myself and about the gospel. I still have my weaknesses, but I know that God will help me overcome them and that there is no point in beating myself up about them all the time. I still get feeling down on myself sometimes, but not as often.

So, today I am going to keep that up! Each time I catch myself getting down on myself for some problem or weakness that I have, I am going to say a prayer asking for help with that item and then find something else more positive to think or to do. And, I’m going to try and also be grateful for the Atonement and think that I don’t have to save myself from this sin because the Savior has provided the way for me to repent and overcome it with his help.

Are there any other scriptures you have found that show how totally dependent we are on the Savior for salvation? Or, is there an experience or insight you had that helped you see your dependence on the Savior that you wouldn’t mind sharing?

Be Ye Therefore Perfect – Eventually

Reading: “What Does it Mean to be Perfect?“, Cecil O. Samuelson, New Era, January 2006

I have already shared how asking “what would Jesus do?” affected me in a positive way. You can read about that in my last post.

However, a negative side effect I found of asking all the time “what would Jesus do?” was that I kept comparing myself to someone who is perfect. I found myself thinking, “Christ would not even have that problem because he never would have done the stupid things that got him there, and I am just messed up.” This was not an uplifting way of thinking.

Thus, I thought today it would be good to read an article on perfectionism. This particular article is an old favorite of mine.

Perfectionism is not humility, and it is not of God. It is when we get so down on ourselves about what is wrong with us that we lose sight of the more positive aspects of the gospel. It is a serious problem and can have serious consequences. If you think you have this problem, I highly encourage you to review the list at the end of this article because it does a good job of showing the difference between perfectionism and humility.

One thing I often find myself doing when I start to struggle with perfectionism is that I get the idea that I have to get rid of what weaknesses I have before I can be worthy of God’s help. If we look at Ether 12:27 we can see this is not the case:

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

God wants us to be perfect, but he also wants to help us get that way. If we are willing to ask for and receive God’s help with problems, that is the point he will start helping us. What a beautiful thought! God does not just leave us to work out our own problems, but rather is ready to take us by the hand and lead us back to where we need to go.

Today I am going to try to take a different approach when I encounter problems. Rather than getting down on myself, I’m going to try and say a little prayer asking for God’s help and then I’m going to find something more positive to think about or do.

I think everybody struggles with perfectionism at some point in their life. What ways have you found to help you deal with perfectionism? Do you have any insights that let you know when you have stopped being humble and started being a perfectionist?