Make Up Your Mind, Already (Part 2: Are You a Perfectionist or a Disciple?)
In Part 1 of this series, I introduced a phenomenon called the “batter’s box blues” – the tendency of young adults to get so caught up in the pressure of making the “right decisions” in life that we end up paralyzed for fear of making the wrong ones. This fear can lead to broken commitments, shattered relationships, and a deep sense of regret.
Oftentimes, at the heart of this struggle lies an unseen yet deep-seated perfectionism. The man who can’t make up his mind is a man who tries – in vain – to create a perfect world for himself. As a guy who’s struggled with perfectionism all his life, I can say this much: things rarely go according to plan.
Freshman year of college, I thought I could do it all. I remember the sense of wonder I felt at my first student activities fair. I signed up for just about every club and organization I could find – including three a cappella groups, two student-run newspapers, and the Korean American Student Association (Yeah, I know I’m not Korean… but the folks at the table were so inviting!) Before I knew it, I had committed over-committed to far more than I could handle.
I wasn’t halfway through the semester when the devastating realization set in: I couldn’t do it all. I was stretched too thin. My “perfect schedule” was crumbling; I found myself quitting groups, abandoning responsibilities, and letting friends down left and right.
Unfortunately, I didn’t learn my lesson freshman year. I continued this destructive, “commit-bail-commit” pattern for the rest of my time in college, not only with clubs and organizations but in relationships as well. It was as though my old little-league habits had seeped into my adult life, and I was striking out at every turn.
While my fear of commitment took a heavy toll on my extracurricular and social life, it was never more harmful than in my spiritual life. For years, I feared fully investing in a religion I couldn’t scientifically verify. I worried that if I committed my life to Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church, I’d be seen as ignorant, blind, or stupid. What if I bought into Christianity, and it turned out to be a lie? That’d be the greatest “swing and a miss” there ever was. So for years, I stood on the fence, paralyzed by indecision, researching my options but deathly afraid to commit for fear of being wrong.
Fear. Doubt. Worry. I was sick and tired of it. One night, sitting in a hotel room in Steubenville, Ohio, I prayed that God would reveal himself to me. That He would show me He was real. That He would teach me how to be a man of confidence and passion, free of the chains of doubt and fear. It was a prayer I’d prayed many times before, and honestly, I wasn’t expecting much.
That night, I experienced the presence of God in a way that words cannot describe. I knew in that moment that He was real, that He loved and cared for me as His beloved son. I knew He was calling me to make an act of faith. To swing the bat. And I knew with every fiber of my being that in doing so, I had absolutely nothing to fear.
Stepping out in Faith
Of course, I wasn’t the first man who struggled to commit to faith in Christ.
Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how (strong) the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me!" Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" (Mt. 14: 29-31).
Jesus’ love for Peter is astounding. He loves him enough to invite him to partake in a miracle. He loves him enough to let him choose to courageously step out in trust. And, when Peter falters, he loves him enough to offer his merciful hand.
Meditating on this passage, it hit me. Jesus has called me to be His disciple. To put my relationship with Him above and beyond any earthly good I hope to secure by “making the right choices.” Before any human relationship, any job or career, any club or organization, any weekend event. Jesus Christ has entered into my doubt, my worry, my fear of being wrong, and redeemed it. And this is a beautiful – if at times painful – gift.
Beneath all my outward indecision, flakiness, and “analysis paralysis” was a deeper issue: I had placed my identity in my own abilities, talents, and plans rather than in Jesus Christ. Deep down, I’d believed that if I relied on myself alone and made the perfect set of choices, I would be happy.
Heck, I’m not gonna lie. Even writing this very blog series has been a challenge for me because – well – I want it to be perfect. I want to phrase things in just the right way and “wow” you with words of wisdom.
But it’s time to take my own advice. It’s time to stop turning perfection into an idol. It’s time to offer my writing, my work, my relationships, everything I am to God just as it is – a broken, mistake-ridden mess – and leave the rest up to Him.
Jesus Christ re-defines “perfect” as you and I see it. He turns the concept on its head. Because is through the ultimate act of human weakness that He brings about the redemption of the world.
Jesus will destroy your perfectionism – and in doing so, He will lead you to true freedom.
But you have to let Him.
In the third and final post in this series, I’ll cover three practical tips for overcoming perfectionism and indecisiveness in daily life.