Keyaira Kelly is an editor, writer, and poet based in Brooklyn. Each week, Keyaira takes readers inside the margin notes of her bible, where she mines through scripture to find golden nuggets of wisdom to help us see ourselves and the people we love through God’s eyes. You can follow Keyaira @keyairakelly on Instagram and check out her podcast Talk To Your Mom on all streaming platforms. If you have any feedback or topics you’d like to see discussed in the column, contact Keyaira at keyairawritenow@.
This week’s therapy session challenged me to explore the root of one of my deepest wounds: perfectionism. Whether it’s making tweaks to my career, body, diet, or my relationships, perfectionism is a sneaky soul dagger because it can dress itself up as “wellness” all the time. I recognize goals are necessary for overall health and vitality, but my therapist reminded me that seasons, when I’m not trying to achieve anything, are just as important.
“You are a human, not a self-improvement project,” she said, which opened a new door to my mind on how to see myself through every season that requires more stillness than transformation.
So I asked God in my quiet time what He has to say about perfectionism, and I was led to Psalm 9:3-20.
In this Psalm, David is praising God for rescuing him from his enemies,
1 LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done. 2 I will be filled with joy because of you. I will sing praises to your name, O Most High.
3 My enemies retreated; they staggered and died when you appeared. 4 For you have judged in my favor; from your throne you have judged with fairness. 5 You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked; you have erased their names forever. 6 The enemy is finished, in endless ruins; the cities you uprooted are now forgotten.
7 But the LORD reigns forever, executing judgment from his throne. 8 He will judge the world with justice and rule the nations with fairness. 9The LORD is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.
So I asked God how this verse connects to perfectionism, and God illuminated to me that my perfectionism is inherently rooted in distrust. **MIC DROP** It’s the idea that if I do this perfectly, and look this perfect way, and say all the perfect things, I can avoid being judged or abandoned by people. But the truth is, there is nothing you can ever say, do, or look like to avoid being ridiculed or left. Nothing. As scary as that may feel, we can be free in knowing our abundance was never based on what we do or what we look like, or what we can achieve. Our abundance is in faith in Jesus.
In these verses, David is ultimately praising God for having sovereignty over everything. David’s enemies “staggered and died,” when God appeared, and He “erased their names forever,” (It’s giving: “he who does not feel me is not real to me, therefore he doesn’t exist,” shout out to Jay).
And when I think about it, it’s silly to uphold the idea that “being perfect” will save me from anything. Jesus was perfect during his lifetime, and he was still met with envy, hate, and betrayal. Perfectionism gives too much power to man’s eyes, and not enough credit to God’s power to make “all things work together for good,” (Romans 8:28).
God expects us to fail, that’s why we have Jesus, who literally paid the price for anything we could ever do in this life, especially the parts we feel ashamed about. Perfectionism thinks it can earn love by works; humility says I was saved by grace.
Not to mention, none of our biblical heroes were perfect people: Abraham had a baby with a mistress because he and his wife Sarah lost faith that God would give them a child. King Solomon, the man gifted wisdom by God, was led astray at one point and worshiped false Gods. King David, who is described in Acts 13:22 as “a man after God’s own heart,” was still an adulterer who succumbed to lust.
While these stories may be extreme, they illustrate the expanse of God’s grace. They remind us that even our failures are the humbling salve needed to remind us we will never get it right, and that’s why we cleave to God. So, go ahead, relax. You’re never going to do it all perfectly, but you can live this life striving for a perfect heart.
Keyaira Kelly, who does not need to be perfect to be loved.
Challenge question: What is something you are internally super critical about that you need to release?
Journal question: Write down in your journal an area of your life you’re obsessed with doing “perfectly,” and pray this prayer over it for the next seven days:
“Lord, I thank you for being supreme over all things. Help me to align my sight with yours, so I can see the inherent perfection in all of creation, starting with myself. I trust that even the things my limited human mind perceives as “wrong,” can be made new in the power of your hands. I thank you Jesus for your perfection, and I surrender my will into your capable hands. And so it is.”
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