Here’s a fourth way to deal with a New Year‘s desire for perfection:
But God wasn’t finished. He continued to show me other characteristics of my perfectionism—like my “all or nothing attitude.” I tended to discount any progress I made if it wasn’t 100% improvement. And I couldn’t give credit or praise to others if they didn’t fulfill my desires completely.
But during that time of healing, I began to see that God was patiently working within me—as Philippians 1:6 says. I was making progress and I needed to give God credit for what He was doing, even if it wasn’t all I wished. For instance, one day I went to bed downhearted. “Oh, Lord,” I prayed, “I got angry at Darcy again. When will I be patient with her—all the time?”
The Lord gently whispered in my heart, “Kathy, how many times did you get angry at Darcy today?”
I thought hard. “Well, at lunch once and two times late in the afternoon.”
And how many times would you get angry at her four months ago?”
Oh, lots more, Lord, like every hour.”
He seemed to be waiting patiently as if to say, “Well?” Then He said, “Why can’t you give me credit for your improved patience?”
It suddenly made so much sense. I was always focusing on what I hadn’t done right rather than giving God praise for what He had accomplished within me. I would condemn myself for the 10% I hadn’t done well, even if I’d grown 90% in an area. “That’s stupid, Lord! You are making me more patient and loving. Thank you!”
Those kinds of small insights led me to realize the value of something I call, “The 1% Principle.” It’s the fact that even one percent improvement or performance is valuable. For instance, I recently returned home from a speaking engagement and Larry met me in the hallway, grinning like a Cheshire cat. What is he up to? I wondered.
He said, “Come into the kitchen.” I followed him and with a flourish of his hand, he pointed to the dish-less sink. “I did the dishes for you!”
I was so pleased! I wrapped my arms around him for a hug, but as I looked over his shoulder, my eyes gazed upon pieces of food and puddles of milk curdling on the kitchen counter. He didn’t wipe off the counter!
Just as I began opening my mouth to instruct him in proper dishwashing, I remembered the 1% Principle—and quickly changed what I was about to say. “Honey,” I exclaimed, “Thanks so much for supporting me in this way!”
I was so glad I bit my tongue and appreciated his loving gift—even if it wasn’t done perfectly. And, guess what? Larry did the dishes again the next evening! I bet he wouldn’t have done them again—and many times since then—if I’d criticized his efforts.