On Making Mistakes

I'm a perfectionist.

Not a former perfectionist. Not a recovering perfectionist.  A full-fledged, raging, out-of-control, drive-my-wife-crazy perfectionist.

My perfectionism doesn't extend to everything or everyone.  Most perfectionist are selective in their high-standards-having.

Do you know a perfectionist? Are you one yourself?

Making mistakes is particularly difficult for me.  I freeze up, get frustrated with myself. 

There's a scene from the movie Tommy Boy that really captures my experience, frustration bubbling into comic chaos.  If you haven't seen the film, it's worth a watch.

Somehow my frustration over making mistakes connected with my relationship with God.  Although in my head I know this isn't true, in my heart I feel like I'm worthless when I make a stupid mistake.  I find it difficult to pray when I make a stupid mistake.

It's as if the God who forgave rebellion and lawlessness and cruelty can't endure being around me when I've done something stupid, as if I embarass him and he needs to take a little time to cool down and get over it.

It's difficult, when you know your heart-response to something doesn't match your theology.  Difficult, but real.

But something strange has been happening in me.

Yesterday, I missed my flight to Staff Conference.  I misread my itenerary and showed up (in Ft. Lauderdale) in time for my connecting flight (in Dallas).  This led to a day of flying stand-by and running through airports.

But it was okay.  Actually, I was okay.

I didn't freak out, didn't get frustrated (overly), and was even able to talk to people around me.  And on top of all that, I could pray.  For a perfectionist, this is a big deal.

Two things have helped me around my mistake-making:

1) I made a mistake months ago (showed up really late to a really important meeting with my boss and my boss' boss and all of my new collegues) and was received with grace and kindness.  I wasn't shamed or made to feel guilty.  My apologies fell to deaf ears.  And, for some reason, this was liberating.

2) I've been reading the Old Testament and watching God forgive Israel over and over again.  And, as I mentioned already, forgive them for really horrible things.  Somehow, this time, I'm starting to believe God's grace, not only for my sins, but also for my mistakes.

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