I was accused of be ungrateful. Unappreciative. Lazy. Irresponsible. I remember once being yelled at for not mowing the lawn like I had been told. I had mowed it that morning. My dad was just too drunk to notice. I knew the verbal attack was unwarranted. But I was only nine years old. He was an adult. So I accepted full blame.
Since children don't have the ability to reason like grownups, I concluded that it was my fault that my dad was an alcoholic. Dad kept getting drunk because I was bad. I came to believe that if I simply behaved better and never gave my dad anything to criticize he wouldn’t drink anymore.
And so it began. The insatiable need to be perfect. The self-imposed demand to perform flawlessly so that I could earn the approval of others. Relentlessly seeking a goal that could never be attained. And every day feeling like a failure.
There is no greater form of self-abuse than perfectionism.
But the guilt and shame that gnawed at my soul as I tried desperately to live up to the expectations of an alcoholic father were nothing like the guilt and shame I experienced trying to live up to the expectations of an infallible Heavenly Father.
Well into my adult life, and long after my dad was delivered from alcoholism and our relationship was restored, I was still living in fear. I was afraid to make a mistake; afraid of rejection; afraid I would never be deemed worthy of love; afraid to get too close to another father I couldn't please.
But one day, as I was searching through the Bible for nuggets of truth that would calm my fears, I came across five words in the book of First John that I was familiar with, but honestly hadn't paid much attention to. Five words that God clearly meant for me at that juncture of my life. Five words that give hope and healing to wounded souls who are fearful that they are too flawed to ever be loved: Perfect love drives out fear.
The Bible says that God is perfect in all of His ways. He is a perfect Father. And He loves His children with a perfect love.
Perfect love is love without condition. Perfect love has no strings attached. Perfect love looks beyond people's imperfection and sees their need. Perfect love is the kind of love we read about in 1 Corinthians 13: Love that is patient, love that is kind, love that does not envy, love that does not boast, love that is not proud, love that does not dishonor others, love that is not self-seeking, love that is not easily angered, love that keeps no record of wrongs.
The wonderful, freeing truth I have discovered is that there is no room for fear in a heart that is filled with the Heavenly Father's perfect love. Because my Heavenly Father's love is perfect I don't have to be.