Darla Isakson has written a compelling article on Perfectionism for Meridian Magazine. I have the link at the bottom of this post so you can read the whole thing. We as Mormon’s have a particularly hard time with this because of our “Natural Man Mind” and the human tendency to compare ourselves to others. We are raised singing “I Am A Child of God” and we want to be like our Heavenly Parents. A friend called me once years ago. Her beautiful, amazing daughter was being shunned at our high school for some stupid reason. The daughter was suddenly outside of her friend group. This friend said to me, “No one else is going through this kind of pain!” I told her every family in her ward had some big huge hard thing they were going through, right at that moment. She said, “That can’t be! Everyone looks so perfect at church!” Hence some of our struggles as members. We compare ourselves to other’s Sunday-Best-All-the-Smiling-Family-In-A-Row.
Below are some of the gems on the parenting part of the article by Darla Isakson:
“I believe perfectionism is part of Satan’s counterfeit version of the gospel.’
“President Joseph F. Smith described one of Satan’s methods: “Satan is a skillful imitator, and as genuine gospel truth is given the world in ever-increasing abundance, so he spreads the counterfeit coin of false doctrine” (ibid., p. 36). Here’s an example: he adds the word “now” to the “Be ye therefore perfect” scripture in Matthew 5:48 and ignores the footnote that defines “perfect” as complete, finished, fully developed.” Perfectionism is an example of “precepts of men mingled with scripture” that never brings enough truth to sustain the light. Through perfectionism the adversary can change the comforting gospel of Christ into something persecuting and misery-making.’
“One of the most dangerous areas of “no mistakes allowed” perfectionism is parenting. If I believe my job with my children is to make sure they make only perfect choices, I’m in trouble, and they’re in trouble.’
“My husband Doug was raised non-Mormon in the Salt Lake Valley. He and his friends used to call members of the Church “Latter-day Pharisees” because of the emphasis they often put on outward performance. In a few of his LDS friends’ homes Doug saw parents trying to get perfect obedience to the commandments by coercion; for a while various members of these families seemed to be on wild goose chases of “faithful” performances with no emotional connection with each other or the Spirit. The result in such homes was often the children rebelling and leaving, straying far from the Church and their families.
“We need a paradigm shift to see His way.’
“Teach Children to Repent, Not to “Be Perfect Now”
“It is a false belief that if children choose wrong it means their parents have failed. God knew absolutely that every one of us would make wrong choices when He gave all His children agency and that is why he gave us a Savior. God stood firm against Satan’s plan of making everyone do everything right. What irony, then, when parents think that is their job!
“The Lord has made it very clear in the scriptures that a parent’s job is not to keep their children from every sin, but instead “we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins” (2 Nephi 25:26).”
“Moses chapter 6 offers a soul-stirring message on the Atonement and the plan of salvation. After saying that children are whole from the foundation of the world, we are told, “And the Lord spake unto Adam saying: Inasmuch as thy children are conceived in sin, even so when they begin to grow up, sin conceiveth in their hearts, and they taste the bitter, that they may know to prize the good. And it is given unto them to know good from evil; wherefore they are agents unto themselves, and I have given unto you another law and commandment. Wherefore teach it unto your children that all men, everywhere, must repent, or they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God” (Moses 6:55-57).”1
I have been guilty of this perfect family syndrome. If we all look good…Oh the 1990’s and matching family pictures and Laura Ashley dresses! Those were the days, when my children were young, did everything I asked and wanted to please me! Two of these adorable children in this picture are out of the church, right now. Thank goodness my trials and challenges have taught me that perfection is a counterfeit and the reason we are in families is not to show everyone else how great we are but to love and support each other, forgive each other and allow each other to improve, micro inches at a time. I have been so fascinated by the idea of families, that it is a commandment to create families when it can be so hard and painful. But it is our best chance to sanctify ourselves from things like control and other false beliefs and to practice over and over again, true, unconditional love.
Neal A Maxwell said, “There are no perfect families, either in the world or in the Church, but there are many good families. My spiritual applause also goes to those heroic parents—left alone by death or divorce—who are righteously and “anxiously engaged” in nurturing and providing for their families, often against such heavy odds.”2
These last days are “heavy odds”, single parenting or not. Jodi Hildebrandt taught me about “surrendering”. Surrendering means stopping the emotional rollercoaster over other’s (or your) choices, actions, words or your ideas of perfectionism. Accept that person will not change, doesn’t want to be with you, or will continue on their destructive path. You also have to forgive yourself if you have repented and move on. Figure out what the truth is and keep repeating that phrase to yourself. Jodi teaches that if you can’t do the above exercise, you are creating optional pain for yourself. The other day I was fussing out loud about something and my son said, “Optional pain, Mom”. It’s true. He stopped me in my tracks. When I have wrestled and chosen to surrender and also turn it over to the Savior when something is extra hard, peace comes. Choose peace, not perfection. What are some perfections/false beliefs in your family that you have surrendered?