Doubt, Fear, and Perfectionism

There has been a favorable reply to my blog last night on perfectionism. Some of you have contacted me and said that I was talking about you. Let’s take the first good news then. We are not alone in this fight. If we work together, we can overcome this. However, I was thinking about this some this afternoon and thinking about it in prayer and came to some thoughts on the matter.

It seems that perfectionism begins with doubt. This is often doubt of ourselves. This doubt quickly leads to fear due to uncertainty. “Oh my gosh. What if I am not good enough? What if I really am a terrible person? What if? What if? What if?” Those who are familiar with perfectionism know about the “What if’s” and Gary Habermas in dealing with emotional doubt has said that “What if’s will kill you.”

This doubt causes us to overlook the things that we know. Consider if you’re doubting your faith for instance. You have all these arguments for the reliability of Scripture, the existence of God, the belief in the resurrection of Christ, etc. What are you thinking about? You’re thinking about some other minor issue? In fact, it’s one that really has no bearing on the Christian faith, if you’re even thinking about that! You could just be thinking “What if I’m wrong?” and your emotions take over. Doubt causes you to overlook what you do know and focus on uncertainties.

What’s the cure? I think I have a partial glimpse. It’s in wonder. Readers of my blog know that I am a strong advocate of wonder. There is one event in my life that really brings home to me the value of wonder. It was one night a couple of months into our move here. I was going to bed that evening and trying to find my way in the dark. That’s not the easiest when you’ve only lived somewhere a month and a half or so!

There was some light somehow I think coming from my roommate’s room who had already gone to bed so I thought “There’s light from his door.” (I thought his name of course, but I keep names secret on here generally.) The thought then struck me that it was his door. My friend is really there. That was when wonder seized me. I relished in the truth that is there and so many of my doubts and fears dissipated immediately.

That is the key. We must see things as they are and allow ourselves to be amazed. It is doubt that helps us to kill that wonder. Now doubt can be a good thing if we counter it with rationality, but not with emotion. If I think “I am no good” for instance, I need to counter and say “No. You are good. Here are the reasons why,” and then start naming them.

As I thought about that time of wonder, I prayed for that good friend of mine and for his blessing in all he does and saw my problems start to vanish. Now are they gone entirely? No. However, I started to see reality as it is and started to see how much I’ve been blessed. I got back to my computer to find my old pastoral counselor back where I come from had emailed me so I emailed him back and mentioned some of what I’m saying now.

Is that the total cure? No. It also won’t come overnight. It will take a lifetime of learning to recognize things as they are. I believe it’s a start though.

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