Matthew West is not a musical artist I listen to regularly, but I heard his song “Truth Be Told” twice while driving to my parents’ house. First time, back in the fall when I was writing about my perfectionism & grace journey. Second time, a few weeks ago when we were again driving north for a visit.
Can these words be any more pertinent to a perfectionist perspective?
Lie number one: you’re supposed to have it all together
And when they ask how you’re doing
Just smile and tell them, “Never better”
There is an underlying untruth to the life of a perfectionist. A perfectionist forces themselves to live as if everything is going fine (lie) and they have it all under control (again lie) and they can smile always (that’s a lie too).
Lie number two: everybody’s life is perfect except yours
So keep your messes and your wounds
And your secrets safe with you behind closed doors
There’s another lie we tell ourselves, and it’s that everyone else is busy being perfect too. We have messes and secrets and hurts just like the rest of humanity, but they are shameful and an anomaly (i.e. a deviation from the common rule or arrangement). We are alone and hidden. Sometimes even hidden from ourselves.
Truth be told
The truth is rarely told
I say: I’m fine, I’m fine, oh I’m fine, hey I’m fine
But I’m not, I’m broken
And when it’s out of control, I say it’s under control
But it’s not and You know it
“Oh I’m fine!” We are supposed to be fine (so thinks the perfectionist), therefore we fake it even if there’s no way we can ever make it. We forget that brokenness is embedded in our humanity. Being out of control, corrupted in the deepest parts of our heart, is true of all who walk on this earth. And God knows it—”You are the God Who sees me” (Genesis 16:13).
I don’t know why it’s so hard to admit it
When being honest is the only way to fix it
There’s no failure, no fall
There’s no sin You don’t already know
So let the truth be told
Freedom comes for the perfectionist when we lay bare our lies—the shoulds, the standards, the show. Freedom comes when we acknowledge a God who sees and then let others see as He does. Freedom comes when Jesus Christ covers our shame, when His perfect sacrifice cleanses our hearts. “For by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Hebrews 10:14).
Our perfection is in Jesus alone. It is by grace we are saved, through faith, through no works of our own (Ephesians 2:8-9). Hallelujah! On our own, we are not okay. But in Jesus, we can finally say, I’m fine and that’s the truth.