We had a Stake Relief Society Conference this past weekend. My husband worries when I go to things like this, the same way he frets a bit as general conference weekend approaches. He says its because I come home discouraged and stressed out. I go with enthusiasm, furiously take notes, listen, try to focus and really soak it all in. This isn’t the part he’s worried about, it’s the lists I come home with, usually long and detailed about ways I’m not measuring up, things I should have already been doing, goals to do it all, do it right and do it better than before. Okay, I’ll concede the point, those lists are stressful and discouraging.
This weekend’s conference was different; the perfectionism that drives me to write those lists (you now have my follow-up confession to yesterday’s discussion) was called out. A few things helped me identify it as a harmful tool of Satan. Here are some of the quotes that helped me know the Lord wanted me to really hear and learn, not leave overwhelmed and frustrated by my weakness. I’m paraphrasing since I just have notes. One of the speakers referenced how “idealized perfection” that we are unable to live up to estranges us from the spirit of the Lord. This idea was paired with a quote by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, something like, “Who wants us to feel that someone else’s gift or success somehow diminishes what we have?” And he answered, “Satan, the Father of Lies.” Doesn’t that make so much sense? When we are constantly feeling let down by our failures it is more difficult to feel the Spirit of the Lord; we are more susceptible to Satan’s lies. Working to fulfill the Lord’s commandments and be better, or “become perfect” should not leave us feeling discouraged, sad, frustrated. As we strive for perfection it shouldn’t be about how much better we’re doing than someone else, or how awful we are because we’re not measuring up. Perfectionism is just a hiding place for pride. And if we’re constantly worried about doing everything perfectly, isn’t that just another form of selfishness?
I think it is Satan who wants us to feel that. A couple of years ago I was reading the scripture story about Satan tempting Jesus to my 3-year-old daughter. She had so many questions. “Who is the Devil? Why are they on top of that building? Why is he telling him to jump?” Surprised at the depth with which she was paying attention I tried to explain that the devil wants us to disobey and make bad choices. “Who is he? Why does he want us to make bad choices?” she asked. I tried to trim it down and give here some basic principles. I decided the most important part of that story was that if we think the devil is trying to tempt us, we should do like Jesus did and say, “No! Get Away!”
The next day while we were having a confrontation about going to bed she was throwing a bit of a tantrum. Perfect time to reinforce some of our previous night’s discussion. This time I asked the questions. “What does Jesus want us to do so we can be happy?” Silence from her cranky little face. I supplied her with the correct answer, “Obey.”
” And who did we learn about last night that wants us to disobey?”
A light went on this time, “The devil!” She said with excitement, and went on “But mom, we’re supposed to say, ‘No way Jose!’ to the devil.”
“That’s right!” I smiled at her translation as she continued, “We don’t want the devil in our house, because he’s a meanie.”
How true it is! He is a meanie, so my new list has one thing on it (can it be a list if it’s just one thing?):
1. Remember when I compare myself to those around me and feel superior or inferior, or when the “idealized perfection” I seek has me estranged from my Heavenly Father, I need to say, “No way Jose! Go away! Get thee hence Satan!”
Do you have a list to scrap? Want to write a new one? What do you think?