Have you noticed the pressure “mommy blogs” and other media have put on young mothers? Co-sleeping, baby-wearing, child-led feeding, enviro-friendly toys and gear, providing a magical childhood — all of it raises an impossible bar for motherhood. The list doesn’t stop there either: women are to be politically savvy, dress for success, be a financial whiz, save the earth, run marathons, get organized, raise creative and culturally-sensitive children, be community minded. And that’s not even including the ever-changing (weekly, it seems!) rules for nutrition where last decade’s healthy meal is condemned as abusively unwholesome.
So when I was offered Amy Carroll’s book, Breaking Up With Perfect: Kiss Perfection Goodbye and Embrace the Joy God Has in Store for You to review, it was young women I had in mind. With the perspective of age and a different stage of life, it was easy for me to see how younger women could benefit by gaining freedom from perfectionism’s tyranny.
What I wasn’t expecting was a window into my own soul.
Carroll introduces us to two not-so-hypothetical women: The Good Girl with her list of how to gain God’s and everyone else’s approval, and The Never Good Enough Girl who also has a list. Hers is laden with self-pity and resentment. Both are a list of lies, the author explains.
In the four parts of the book, Carroll unfolds how to break up with wrong beliefs, skewed values, selfish actions, and instead, live freely and love deeply. The lies we believe, she contends, can be replaced by God’s truth.
She starts with our belief about God. Do we think of Him as a tough taskmaster? A distant, disinterested observer? Our beliefs about God, it is said, are the most important thing about us. I was relieved to find the author addressing this critical foundation for our motives and goals. “Seeing ourselves correctly as both loved and sinful is key to ending our love affair with Perfect.” (page 52) I was even more surprised that a modern book for women went against the current self-esteem craze by recommending selflessness. “Only when I choose to be nothing will I find my everything.” (page 54) Bravo!
Throughout the book, Carroll humbly offers highly personal examples of how she learned the lessons she shares. In chapter five, she emphasizes the truth, “God created me for connecting, not collecting,” with the story of her meeting an Ecuadorian woman who lived under a plastic roof, on a dirt floor and without indoor plumbing. Asked what her greatest need was, the woman said, “My greatest need is to be able to teach my children about Jesus so they will follow the Lord all the days of their lives.” Perhaps it’s a unique pitfall of modern life in Western culture that allows us to carry illusions of perfection.
Eventually, I began to wonder if the author’s use of the term Perfect didn’t just boil down to pride. Isn’t God the Perfect that we actually crave? And yes. Carroll eventually arrives there. “Do you hear the nasty elements we’ve talked about in other chapters — the Good Girl List and a self-crafted image? What looked good on the outside was rotted with pride and vanity on the inside.” (page 157) “It’s not just an ‘issue’ or problem to be a perfectionist. It’s actually sin…True perfection belongs only to God, and when we try to create it ourselves, we’re pushing God out of His rightful spot.”
She offers a solution: Repentance. “God is beckoning us to lay down all our try-harder ways, lift our gaze, and look to Him.”
There are practical steps to take in gaining freedom. Some are iffy: “Repeat after me: I wasn’t made to pursue Perfect. I’m most amazing when I’m pursuing Jesus.” Some are sound: “Start a journal where you record truths about God’s character as you read.”
Breaking Up with Perfect is a book that could be expanded into a Bible study for women of any age by using the “Going Deeper” section at the end and supplementing with cross-references.
Amy Carroll’s book isn’t the fluff I thought it would be. It prompted me to renew my desire to find my worth and contentment in God alone, to keep my focus on Jesus and through Him, to love others more faithfully.
I have a copy of this book to give away! Enter the draw (to be picked at random by my son Timo on October 19, 2016) in one of two ways:
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