Hello friends! In my last post I talked about two different types of guilt: real and false and how I have been living with false guilt for a long time. I also highlighted a wonderful 4-part series from Focus on the Family about Living without Constant Guilt.
Today, I want to dive a little deeper into this topic. I want to start peeling back some of the layers so real healing can occur.
Imagine this scenario…
“Johnny, how was school today?”
“It was good mom! I got a 95 on my math test!” Johnny replies excitedly.
“Oh Johnny that’s very good. But, why didn’t you get a 100?” His mother responds with a slight frown on her face. “Maybe you can try better next time.”
Johnny nods and hangs his head in shame as he heads down to his room.
Johnny is unsure of what to think of himself. Why didn’t he get a 100? He studied really hard and did his best. He must not be good enough. And now his mom is disappointed with him, so he feels even worse about himself. Johnny’s stomach begins to ache and tears begin to well in his eyes.
This of course isn’t the first time this scenario has been played out. This response from his parents is all too common for Johnny.
Johnny’s mother loves him and is honestly doing what she thinks is best; she just wants “the Best” for Johnny. She wants Johnny to have a better life than she did…but in her attempts to GIVE him “the Best”, she is pushing him to BE “the Best” and connecting it with how she feels and acts toward him.
What is happening to Johnny?!?
Johnny is being taught that perfection is the standard; and unless he is perfect, his mother, and the rest of the world, will be disappointed. And although unintentional, his mother has imposed false guilt on Johnny for not meeting her expectations…in turn, Johnny feels really bad about himself and his conscience receives a heavy dose of false guilt each time. This kind of love and training is neither authentic acceptance nor authentic love.
When false guilt is used as a means to encourage, punish, or simply control a child’s behavior it will breed a hyperactive conscience. A hyperactive conscience is expecting what you do or say to not be good enough; second guessing everything you do; and figuring everyone is just waiting for you to “mess up”.
A hyperactive conscience is not a healthy conscience. A person with a hyperactive conscience believes their performance is connected to their self worth. And as an adult, the inner child who just wants to be accepted and loved and who never wants to feel the pain of disappointing others will become a perfectionist and a people pleaser.
Living under an expectation of perfection focuses our eyes and others eyes on to ourselves. It causes us to put a lot of pressure on ourselves to live a “perfect” life so we can be accepted and not criticized. But a “perfect” life is unattainable.
I have been living like this for a very long time, and have suffered much heartache and restless hours because of it. Being perfect and pleasing everyone is impossible and trying to do so is exhausting! Life is not meant to be lived like this. But I do not have to live like this any longer—and if you are living like this, neither do you.
Healing from living like this does not happen over night, but I believe it is possible. First we must recognize this pattern of life for what it is, a lie and start with truth.
The truth is that in Jesus we ARE good enough.
When we accept Jesus into our hearts He does something amazing to us. We look different to God. In Colossians, Paul says, “And you, who were once alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and irreproachable in His sight.” Col. 1:21-22 NKJV (emphasis added)
Did you catch that?!? We are reconciled to God through the death of Jesus and we are considered holy, blameless and irreproachable in God’s eyes! We are sacred, innocent of wrongdoing, and beyond criticism. We are faultless through Christ. Hallelujah and thank you, Jesus! We don’t need to live in bondage to perfectionism, nor should we. God sees us as perfect through Jesus. How freeing is that?!? Very freeing indeed!
This doesn’t mean sinning is acceptable though. Paul goes on to say “—if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.” Col. 1:23 NKJV
So having Jesus in our hearts does not mean it is acceptable to sin, but it does mean we are set free from trying to earn acceptance and love. We are called to live like Jesus lived, but how God sees us is not based on our works. We do not have to “be” perfect in order for God to love us and accept us, we “are” perfect in Christ Jesus.
By understanding who we are in Christ we can break free from the chains of perfectionism and a hyperactive conscience. Instead of focusing on things we can’t change or on our human limitations, we can focus on who we are in Christ and live the life God wants us to live! God wants us to enjoy this precious life He has given us. I will say it again…with Jesus you are holy, you are blameless, you are faultless—you are accepted and you are loved.
*Photos used are from www.unsplash.com
Do you struggle with perfectionism or the need to please people? If so, how does hearing the truth from Colossians 1:21&22 change your perspective? How does it make you feel? I would love to hear from you!
Hi! My name is Mandy.
Thanks for visiting my blog! Being a mom in this modern age is a pretty difficult thing. So many expectations are imposed on us and it can be overwhelming and often discouraging.