4 ways moms can cure the need for perfect

perfectionismThe mere thought of it made my heart swell.

Every Christmas, I absolutely love the idea of doing something for someone else as a family.

I knew of an older lady in our community, who was sight-impaired, and had difficulty doing housework. I decided that we would arrange to go to her house and help clean and prepare her house for the holidays.

Not only that, we’d bring over a Christmas basket full of home-baked goodies and other food items — all wrapped up in celephane and a big red bow.

Heck, maybe we’d all sing Christmas carols, too!

Guess what? It didn’t happen. None of it.

My own house wasn’t clean for Christmas, let alone anyone else’s.

I baked one batch of cookies this past holiday season — which my children promptly gobbled up.

And, besides my husband, none of us can sing.

I’m brilliant at making the possible, impossible. You know, taking an achievable goal and then finding a way to make it completely unachievable.

Let me give you a couple of examples …

My Goal: Give our bedroom a mini-makeover.

Possible Scenario: Start with cleaning the pile of clutter off my dresser. Then, tackle a different task each week until it’s done.

My Impossibly Perfect Scenario: Completely declutter the entire room, shampoo the carpet, paint it to my “dream” color and spread sweet-smelling potpourri around the room — this Saturday.

My Goal: Spend Sunday at church with my family.

Possible Scenario: Every member of the family gets to church — even if it’s not on time.

My Impossibly Perfect Scenario: Try to make everyone thrilled to be there, enraptured by heartfelt worship and bubbling over with all the divine insights they gained.

In her new book, No More Perfect Moms, Jill Savage called this the Perfection Infection.

That’s right. I’m diseased.

But I’ve found a few things that have helped ease my “need for perfection” sickness:

Decide what’s important. Helping someone, setting an example for my kids — that’s what’s important. It didn’t have to be an elaborate gesture — or even at Christmastime. The opportunity didn’t expire on December 25th. If her house is anything like mine, she could probably benefit from cleaning help anytime. When I realized my plan was perfectly unrealistic, I shifted gears. Instead, each family member donated money to feed an orphan from Ecuador for a year.

Accept messy. Life isn’t neat or tidy. And I can’t control that. But I can control my reaction to it. I can become rigid and cranky and suck the joy out of every situation. Or, I can ask God to help me relax and see how He wants to work in my messy circumstances. The irony? I’m often most blessed when things don’t work out like I planned.

Pray. A number of years ago, God opened my eyes to the damage my need for perfection was doing to my relationship with my husband and children. Critical and uptight isn’t a great formula for loving interactions. God has slowly changed my heart and relaxed my soul. I’m still a work in progress and it keeps me on my knees.

We all have a need for Perfect. We need a perfect Savior. And His perfect grace. And we need His perfect plan — for our children, for our marriages and, even for each of our days. His plan may not be wrapped in celephane with a big red bow, but I trust that He will work it all out for my good — perfectly.

This is the third in a four-part series to celebrate the upcoming release of Jill Savage‘s new book, No More Perfect Moms. Here’s are the first two posts in the series in case you missed them: Are Children Reflections of our Imperfections? and The Paralyzing Effects of Perfectionism in Mothering.

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  • Great post. I’ve accepted messiness awhile ago. My house is just never going to be one of the spotless ones.

    • {Melinda} I’m right there with you, Amber. Just accepting it has been freeing. 🙂

  • Just last night I was up til past 2:00am thinking about all the things I haven’t done that I had on my perfect “to do” list… feeling overwhelmed and defeated that the things I planned did not happen as I wanted. I wasn’t at peace about different priorities that have slipped (helping my father-in law, seeing my dear friend more often before she passed away…big things.) I finally tried to justify it all with the many different variables that have changed my course these past few weeks. Grace. I am trying so hard to live in Grace. His Grace and mine.

    • {Melinda} Why is it so hard to accept His grace, Chris. I wish I knew. I have to call on the Holy Spirit to help me all the time, because I can so easily drift to that feeling of never measuring up. I do understand that kind of mental torment assessing what you could of, should of done. I’m so sorry about your friend. Praying for you right now to embrace His grace, friend.

    • {Melinda} Ashley, you are so fortunate! Perfectionism is a terrible kind of bondage. I’m so much freer than I was even a few years ago, but it’s something I always have to be aware of. And you are right, prayer does help everything!

  • Oh, man. I TOTALLY do this. It’s so self-defeating. I’ve really tried to be attuned to it lately. Perfectionism (with a side order of control freak) is probably one of my least fantastic character traits. I’m working on it and have success in some areas more than others.

    • {Melinda} I’m better, too … I used to be totally a Perfection Slave — and didn’t even know. At least now I recognize my dysfunction — and that really does help me relax and deliberately choose to let go of the unrealistic without feeling condemned or like a failure. I think, once we’ve been infected, perfectionism is a disease that we’ll always have to fight!

  • Thank you for posting this! I think we can all relate to this more than we like to admit.

    I think we misunderstand so much of the passage that says, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48, KJV) We often like to define “perfect” as “without flaw”, but the word “perfect” here means “complete”. We are to be complete, relying on God, trusting in Him, content as things are, striving to be better for Him. It’s not about fitting into a box. It’s not about bells and whistles and shiny bows. It’s about being complete in Him. It’s about saying, “I’m not without flaw, but I am blessed and will do my best for Him, with Him because He is Perfection personified and can show me the best way for me.”

    I think part of being perfect is following the advice in Philippians 4:11-13 (KJV), “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Contentment and perfection (i.e. completion) go hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other.

    Have an amazing week, and thank you for reminding me that my definition of perfect is not God’s…and things are so much better when He gets His way vs. when I get mine! 🙂

    • {Melinda} You always leave the most amazing, insightful comments, Julie! I love the idea of “perfect” being “complete.” We can be complete through the Father! He makes that achievable through His Son.

      I’ve become so much better at accepting His plan over mine, but my human tendencies and need for perfection can so easily get in the way. Keeps me drawing on the power of the Holy Spirit.

      • Isn’t it great to know that? I heard a preacher share that life-altering thought once about “perfect” meaning “complete”, and it helped so much! It definitely changes how we look at things! 🙂

        I know what you mean about prayer, too! I know the more I accept my imperfection and that I’m not going to get it all “just right”, the more I know I need the Lord so I can be complete because I am not all that, you know what I mean? Focusing on what I can’t do keeps me bound. There is freedom in admitting you can’t so that God can. Just awesome stuff! 😀

  • This is great! I am smiling ear to ear because I relate to these scenarios so much! I have lofty goals that often end up a little short of where I meant to be, but am so thankful that I am not called to be perfect, but perfected in Christ. Thank you for sharing this!!

    • {Melinda} Took me so long to figure out that perfect in Christ is the best kind — and only attainable kind — of perfect!


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i’m melinda


I’m a woman who was radically changed when the God I thought I knew since childhood opened my eyes to the overwhelming depth of His love for me. I love speaking, writing, and pointing women to the Father so they can experience for themselves the healing power of His incredible, captivating love.

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