By Rev. Dr. Ed Hird
My doctoral advisor, Dr. Paddy Ducklow, recently alerted me to a remarkable woman Dr. Brene Brown. Her TED talk on The Power of Vulnerability went viral with over fifteen million people who have watched it so far. As a fellow Social Worker, I deeply appreciated Brene’s fascinating research on vulnerability, shame, and perfectionism. Many people miss the connection between shame and perfectionism. Brene says that where there is perfectionism, there is always shame, because perfectionism gives birth to shame. Perfectionism keeps us from being our best self. It keeps us from showing up and being present. It keeps us from being loved and giving love to others.
Brene said that “perfectionism is a thought process that if I look perfect, live perfect, work perfect and do it all perfectly, I can avoid or minimize shame, blame, judgement and criticism.” Brene called perfectionism her favorite twenty-ton shield that she carried for many years. It doesn’t work though in protecting us. Perfectionism shuts down joy, love, and connection. It is rooted in our desire for external validity, rather than being true to ourselves.
Perfectionism is radically contagious and seductive. Brene, who describes herself as a recovering perfectionist, says that it is the greatest enemy of transformative leadership. We try to cure our perfectionist hangovers with yet more perfectionism. Many people are trying to painfully earn the love of other people through the futile search for perfectionism. Many of us think that we need to be perfect to be lovable.
Voltaire said that perfect is the enemy of good. That is why Brene said “If you want to avoid blame, shame, judgment and criticism, do nothing. It is part of the human experience.” Perfectionism tempts us to bury our gifts rather than make a lasting contribution. Wayne Gretzky notably commented that you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.
Perfectionism keeps us stuck in procrastination. Brene said that “very few perfectionists ever publish books.” When writing my second book ‘Battle for the Soul of Canada’, I often felt tempted to give up. Why bother? It’s too much of a hassle. There are too many roadblocks to having it published. Every time I write a book, I have to push through my perfectionism. My coach Dr. Terry Walling has been a big encouragement to me in my book writing, saying: “My sense is that God is wanting you to hear his voice. It’s time for you to contribute. It’s time for you to write. It’s time for you to share your thinking and whether people agree with you or not, is not as important as you being able to trust him enough that he will take the things that you say to help advance his kingdom.”
God keeps sending people to me like Dr Terry Walling and Dr Brene Brown who remind me that I don’t need to be perfect. Jesus is the only one who is perfect, and he perfectly loves each one of us, even to the point of the cross. My prayer is that you know in the depth of your being that God is not waiting to love you. He is just waiting for you to accept how much he perfectly loves you.
The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin
-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier
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-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form. Dr. JI Packer wrote the foreword, saying “I heartily commend what he has written.” The book focuses on strengthening a new generation of healthy leaders. Drawing on examples from Titus’ healthy leadership in the pirate island of Crete, it shows how we can embrace a holistically healthy life.
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