We tend to be blind to our own shortcomings, so it is always interesting to me when I discover one of my own less-than-flattering habits (to put it lightly). Actually, it isn't so much that I discover it as it is revealed to me. The process usually goes something like this: normal experience, revelation concerning self, denial (internal temper tantrum), acknowledgement, crossroads, decision.
A few weeks ago, I was severely annoyed when someone messed up...a typical experience for most of us. I was grumbling internally until I realized that I had done precisely the same thing two days earlier. Suddenly, I could so clearly hear, "You expect perfection from others and less than that from yourself, and you give less grace to others than you expect to receive." Blinders removed. The widened view was a little too much to handle at first.
Resistance came, but I knew I wouldn't win this one. I began analyzing my life and realized how great this tendency is. I expect others to be perfect, but I expect to be given second and third (and fourth) chances for myself. I began to think, "What if people expected of me what I expect of them?" I didn't have to think for a long time. I already knew how that felt. There have been countless people in my life who have expected me to be perfect - or certainly near perfect. It is suffocating, pressure-inducing, unrealistic and unfair. And I do it too.
So came my crossroads of consistency. Road One: I can continue holding everyone else to a standard of perfection and simply begin expecting the same of myself. Road Two: I can begin extending to other people the unending grace that I have found in Christ. He lavishes one-way love (as Paul Zahl put it) on me even though I have done everything to make myself undeserving. The first road will lead to self-hatred because, just like everyone else, I will fail. The second road will lead to Christ-likeness and a exhibition of the Gospel in my life. I am called to go down that second road, so here I go. I know sometimes I will drift back to the first (I get distracted easily), but I really want to follow that second road. I think life will be much happier there.
A great read for recovering perfectionists/legalists/'good girls' is Emily P. Freeman's Grace for the Good Girl.