Sunday, May 20, 2012

I was wrong

All my life being "wrong" has been the enemy. I can't tell you how many stop-gap measures I have preemptively put in place in order to avoid even the potential of being wrong. I have expended a lot of emotional and physical energy to attempt to appear and act in right ways. Another name for it is "perfectionism".

Perhaps I should list some more synonyms of what I am calling "wrong". At least in my book it is equivalent with mistaken, uninformed, imperfect, forgetful, untrained, failure, conflict, loss (in competitive settings), immaturity. . . quite frankly, anything with a negative connotation or impact on myself or those around me.

Just the other day I was wrong. I forgot that I was assigned to be the mystery reader in Abby's classroom. I didn't show up. The teacher had to adjust her schedule and do something different because I forgot. Ironically, I was in the building, helping the office manager. Ran into the teacher 20 minutes later only to find out that she had been expecting me. Arghhhh. I hate that feeling! The yuck in the pit of my stomach. The instantaneous desire to have a do-over. Even as the teacher stood there assuring me that it all worked out just fine, I'm beating myself up inside because I didn't have it "together" enough to avoid making a mistake.

Over the years I have been learning that the fear of failure - my effort to avoid being wrong - has not served me well. I have become a prisoner to my own perfectionism. If life is a race, I line up with the others in the starting blocks, but when the gun goes off, I stay, stuck tight in a ball. If I go, I may fail, so it is safer to stay on the starting line, with my potential coiled and ready to spring, but not moving.

I have learned to risk failure, foolishness, or even pain so that I can join the race and run. I have learned to try things that I've never tried before. I have learned to admit what I don't know and accept help from others. I have learned to celebrate progress, to value the journey. I have learned that it is not all about the end result. It's not all about winning, or admiration, or comparing or proving. It's about living, falling, rising, and loving.

And then I hit some area of my life that has been untouched by recent truths. An emotion or belief that got stuck in the perfectionism vault and needs to be brought out into the light, aired off, and deconstructed. These old beliefs exposed in the light of new understanding are not easy to walk through. When the flashlight of truth first exposes them, deep in the vault of my personal history, they hold all their original power and persuasion. It is scary, even painful, to open the vault, bring the old belief into the light of truth, and release control over that area of my life or emotions.

It can feel like a free-fall for a time. As if I had control, but in releasing control and opening the door to the unknown, I have cast myself over a black abyss with no idea where I will land. What pain will this expose me to? What failure will I have to face? What will the people around me think of this journey I am on? How will my exposed emotions impact my friendships, my family, my marriage, my own soul?

And then I remember the freedom I have found when I let other areas of my life out of the vault. The current journey, seen in the light of previous seasons, becomes less fear-filled, and more anticipation. Yes, this is hard, but what is God preparing me for if He is tilling the soil of perfectionism once again, and exposing areas yet to be delivered?

"With change comes the ability to be strong; because when one recognizes their own fallibility, the threat of it is diminished - and the freedom of growth develops. To be wrong is to be free." Margaret Becker  -With New Eyes.


  1. I was dealing with this very struggle myself this week. I came to a conclusion this morning that Jesus would like me to react a lot differently to my failures than I currently am.

    How do you always know, Jen? :)

  2. Insightful as always. Thanks for sharing your fallibility and your insight along your journey.


  3. That is a good word, there.

    Thanks Jen.