[guestpost]Randy Thomas is blogging for me today. I’m sure he’ll inspire us and give us much to think about. I’m grateful for his friendship and role on staff as the Celebrate Kids’ Online & Social Media content manager.[/guestpost]When I read “The Ten Dangers Of Perfection Infection Parenting” in the book No More Perfect Kids (pages 38-46), I was so glad that nine years ago I programmed my therapist’s number into my phone’s speed-dial.
Just kidding … mayyyybe.
Seriously, the “ten dangers …” triggered all kinds of memories. Some good (yay a bullet point I can’t relate too!), and quite a bit that wasn’t good (Drat! I can relate to all the other 9 points!). Here are the “Ten Dangers of The Perfection Infection” bullet points (emphasis mine):
- Danger #1 – Children won’t ask for help because they can’t admit they need it.
- Danger #2 – Children will resist trying new things.
- Danger #3 – Children who don’t make mistakes won’t develop resiliency.
- Danger #4 – Children will relate to parents from a perspective of fear.
- Danger #5 – Children may develop a negative and critical perspective toward themselves and others.
- Danger #6 – Children may expect perfectionism from others even though they don’t like trying to meet the expectations themselves.
- Danger #7 – Children will focus primarily on what they cannot do, rather than what they can do.
- Danger #8 – Children expected to be perfect may hesitate to own and believe in their successes because of the stress.
- Danger #9 – Children will not believe in or experience the beauty of unconditional love.
- Danger #10 – Being raised with perfection as a goal can negatively influence children’s spiritual growth and how they relate to the God of the Bible.
While I was joking earlier about my therapist being on speed-dial, the devastating effects of The Perfection Infection are not anything to take lightly.
The year is 1990. I was at my third or fourth support group meeting dealing with very dysfunctional behavior. I was sober for more than two-weeks (a new thing for me at that time), wide-eyed, and freaked out! These people were kind; doing their normal “sharing is caring” time. One of the men was going on and on … and on … he began to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher. Then out of his mouth came this statement:
“Without God’s unconditional love, I wouldn’t know how to love others unconditionally. Sometimes it’s hard to receive unconditional love, so that makes it hard to extend it.”
You would have thought he was from Neptune speaking an otherworldly language. I wasn’t raised in the church, and at best a nominal Christian at the time. I was a Christian because my granny was a Christian. That’s about the extent of it. This wasn’t even a Christian support group.
I must have looked stunned because I broke the group rules and interrupted, “Unconditional Love? What is that?” They all smiled, a few chuckled, and I think they initially thought I was joking. I was not. There I was at 22 years old and had never really heard the concept of unconditional love before. They caught on that I wasn’t kidding and exhibited unconditional love by answering my question (instead of correcting me for interrupting). They continued that unconditional love by hugging me, not shaming me, for crying once they explained the “beauty” of unconditional love. I had heard of acceptance and love, passionate love, sacrificial love, the love of a true friend, but never “unconditional” love in the way they were talking about it.
This unconditional love concept revolutionized my world!
Growing up, I had never been good enough in any respect. This manifested in all of the above listed struggles to some degree. As a result, I sat in that little group completely unaware of who I was or how I was created by God to be. I had turned to all kinds of other people and unhealthy options to try to fill that deep void. Even so, my thirst was never quenched. My search for value, personal responsibility, and clarity remained blurred and unattainable.
Jill and Dr. Kathy say that for parents the cure for The Perfection Infection is based on four things: Compassion, Perception, Acceptance, and Love (No More Perfect Kids, pages 49-58). This isn’t just true for parents. It’s true for everybody. Over these past 23 years, I have experienced true unconditional love within supportive groups, many friends, and even within my own family. Most importantly, my meditations, and explorations of unconditional love led me to a man who could quench my relational thirst. I received His unconditional love and He made it clear He didn’t want to spend eternity without me!
His name is Jesus.
I know, that might sound a little hokey to some, but it is true! Unconditional love helped to facilitate falling in love with God.
To be clear, I always have and do love my parents. I respect them for many excellent reasons and for the efforts we have made during my adult life to better our relationship. That said, they missed an opportunity to reflect our Heavenly Father’s heart by not teaching, or extending, unconditional love to me as a child. The cool thing about the fruit of unconditional love is that it creates more unconditional love. I am just so grateful for the opportunity to extend unconditional love to them, and to see it reciprocated. It also allowed my heart to open up and see how they, in their own ways, have tried to express unconditional love over time.
Like the woman at the well, when Jesus offered her His Living Water so that she would never have to thirst again, He offers us a wellspring of unconditional love to satiate our souls and bring contentment to the right-here-right-now of our lives.
Unconditional love breathes life and makes space for amazing grace. I am not perfect by any means but I want the kids in my family (my three most super-fantastic nieces ever!), and the kids in my community to know what appropriate life-giving unconditional love looks like from Mr. Randy (or in some cases, Uncle Silly.)
I want to encourage parents, friends, family, to take a good honest look at the ten dangers of The Perfection Infection. Then, show yourself some unconditional love by not living in any guilt or shame if a couple of those points reveal some areas to work on. Remember, our Heavenly Father is looking at you with compassion. He knows/perceives what is truly going on with you and your family. He accepts you right where you are and loves you and your kids. Also, remember this; out of all the billions of people on this planet, our Heavenly Father trusted *you* with these beautiful children.
You can rest in knowing that He knows. He sees, He accepts, and He has an infinite universe full of unconditional love to empower you as you resist and cure The Perfection Infection.
The “beauty of unconditional” love can be manifested in your family and when it does, I believe our Heavenly Father smiles.
Jill Savage and Dr. Kathy Koch share many ideas in their new book that will help you know your children well so you can parent them well. I hope you’ll check out No More Perfect Kids. Buy the book between March 13-23 from our website (or anywhere else) and you’ll get FREE resources worth more than $100 from Hearts at Home (Jill’s ministry), Celebrate Kids, and Moody Publishers. What a deal! Click here to learn more about how to get the resources.