Feeling like you have to put on a good show at church?
There’s a fine line between wanting to do your best, and feeling like you need to be perfect. It’s pretty natural to want to put your best foot forward, but putting too much emphasis on the picture you present can cripple your ability to build authentic relationships with Christ and other Christians.
The more you focus on trying to be perfect, the more you will start to believe the lie that your acceptance (by God and others) is based on your performance. But we’re not perfect; we can’t be! And the only way to seem perfect to other people is to not let them know you all that well.
Here’s the kicker, God already knows you better than that. You can’t hide the ugly stuff from Him because He sees all of you. He loves you by His grace, not because of anything you can do.
Jennifer Rothschild writes about self-image in her book, “Self Talk, Soul Talk,” and in her blog, Java with Jennifer. She explains that when we put pressure on ourselves to attain perfection, we neglect resting in the truth that God’s ways, plans, and intentions for us are altogether perfect:
“We are to simply receive who we are from God, not achieve a status for God. Ultimately believing we need to be more shows we believe God is not enough. We trust ourselves and our opinion of ourselves more than we trust God and His opinion of us.”
If this is hard for you, believe me when I say that I know how you feel. This is something I struggled with for years. Growing up, my mom was focused on how everything looked not on the state of my heart, so I always tried to perform like the perfect Christian. I didn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus until college. Then, God started working on me.
Unfortunately, after college, I married the wrong person, and my “perfect” image came crumbling down. At that low point in my life, I realized that God was my only strength and the only One who knew the horrible pain I was in. And that He was there for me.
It was then that I realized I don’t have to act like everything is all right. It was okay to admit that I was broken. I didn’t know if anyone else would understand, but I knew that God did, and that was enough.
Fortunately, God knew in advance what I would go through, and He had already blessed me with wonderful family and friends. Even though I thought they wouldn’t understand, they were there for me as well. Through their empathy and willingness to admit their own brokenness, I finally understood God’s amazing love and grace.
I’ve never felt the need to try to appear perfect again, and believe me; I still have plenty of imperfections. There have been so many times in our marriage that I’ve had to say to Chris, “I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?” A few months ago, I had to apologize to my daughter Annie for not understanding the depth of her pain when she was sick and thinking she could just take a pill and make it all better.
I can honestly say Chris and I have grown in our marriage, and my relationship with my children has strengthened as we’ve become more willing (and quicker!) to say we are sorry and move on. That’s the beauty of living honestly about our imperfections!
In what way are you most tempted to perform like a perfect Christian? Is it unwillingness to share deep, personal prayer requests in Bible study? Feeling like you always have to act put together and “all right” while you’re at church? What would it look like for you to let go and just be honest?