It’s a bad word. I get after my kids for using it. So I should definitely know better, but I can’t seem to stop myself from using it. I don’t often say it out loud, at least, not so anyone can hear. Nevertheless, it is frequently used vocabulary in my internal dialogue.
It’s my personal kryptonite. I recently organized a large event for the church where I work. I worked with some amazing people and the evening was a huge success. But even weeks later I can give you a long list of my failures. Small things that no one even noticed. Problems that may very well exist only in my mind.
Last night I organized another event and it also went remarkably well. Yet the same mantra is playing in my head… a list of all the little things that went wrong and that F word over and over again.
It could be that birth order phenomenon – I am the oldest and hold myself to impossible standards, wanting to control things that I can’t possibly predict. It’s a twisted form of pride (all insecurity is). I don’t expect as much from others as I do myself.
Perhaps it is temperament. I am conscientious and responsible. I am detail-oriented and task-focused. According to Myers-Briggs, I am INFJ, which is psycho-babble for “perfectionist control-freak”.
Maybe it’s my religious up-bringing. Plymouth Brethren (think semi-Amish city folk) can give the Catholics and the Jews a run for their money in the guilt department. My parents were definitely moving towards a faith of grace and forgiveness when I was a child, but I seem to have picked up the self-flagellating attitude somewhere along the way. Jonathan Edwards wrote a very famous (and in my opinion quite horrible) sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”. For me a scarier title would have been “Sinners in the Hands of a Disapproving God”.
When I made my very first foray into therapy, I was sure I knew which problems I needed to discuss. A gifted and insightful counselor knew different. About halfway through our second session, he looked me in the eye and said, “God is not disappointed in you.” I burst into tears and proceeded to blubber for the rest of the hour. After crying all the way home, it occurred to me that this may in fact be the real issue.
The God I picture in my head isn’t nearly as good as the real thing.
There is therefore, now, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).
No condemnation. No disappointed sighs. No disgusted eye rolls.
When I keep reading that same chapter of the bible it is clear that in God’s eyes I am not a failure. He made sure of it. It says:
I am free.
I am a beloved daughter.
I am forgiven.
I have purpose.
I am loved no matter what.
I am more than a conqueror!
And suddenly it doesn’t really matter that I miscounted the RSVP list and couldn’t figure out the coffee maker. Beating myself up over silly details does seem profane when I remember who I truly am and the God who made me. I make mistakes. I screw up. I may even fail from time to time. But I am not a failure. So bring on the cheesy affirmations; the “F” word has got to go.
So here’s me, and doggonnit, people like me!
October 24th, 2011 at 6:51 pm
I was one of those fortunate enough to see you in action last night. I was so impressed with how you led the evening. I really enjoyed the fact that at the end you honestly told the reason we were there was so that we could give money to support some missionaries. No apology, just the truth.
I know you did a great job. Thanks so much for making use of your God-given talents.
October 24th, 2011 at 10:44 pm
Jim, I wish you were the voice in my head. You are always so encouraging! Thank you!
October 25th, 2011 at 4:21 am
Beautiful, thanks for the encouragement. And btw, I’m the baby of the family and the f word is a huge struggle for me too!
October 25th, 2011 at 8:12 am
Well, so much for that theory. Maybe we’re just neurotic?
October 25th, 2011 at 12:55 pm
Doggonnit…..people do like you! Thank you Christe…..certainly needed a dose of that today. Truth is always so healing. Love you! Cindy
October 25th, 2011 at 1:56 pm
I like you too!
October 26th, 2011 at 11:48 am
I’ve been thinking about this too, I have some thoughts on this I should write down sometime. I think this could be an interesting small group study.
October 26th, 2011 at 1:17 pm
Sign me up! I think it’s something most of us struggle with from time to time. You should do it.
November 7th, 2011 at 4:35 am
Hi, just stumbled across this post and loved it. I felt like I could have written those exact words, nearly line for line! Your post really resonated with me- it was really encouraging! thanks for sharing!
November 7th, 2011 at 11:33 am
It’s always good to hear from a fellow perfectionist, apparently we have more in common than just a great name. Thanks for your encouragement!
December 30th, 2011 at 9:47 pm
[…] The “F” Word: That’s right. Read it. I dare you. […]
January 3rd, 2012 at 9:00 pm
Since I’m on a roll reading and replying, I’ll tell you my worst failure at a church function and maybe it’ll help you the next time you miscount: I was in charge of the dinner at our passover table-I was the table hostess…and I forgot! That’s right, our table had no actual food! So think of that the next time you think people will notice your failure at a church function! Some control freaks need to fail really big.
January 3rd, 2012 at 9:44 pm
Ha ha! Can you laugh about it now? That’s why KFC is a lifesaver!