A few days ago, my friend Jasmine and I had a beautifully candid conversation about life, mommyhood, and everything in between. As we chatted, we shared our proverbial “wins” (those moments when we feel like a rockstar by accomplishing something) as well as our seeming failures (those moments where we feel we have totally missed the mark). I must admit that it was ridiculously refreshing to engage in such a conversation without feeling ashamed or “judged” about my ability (or lack thereof) to navigate through life. All too often, many women struggle to be completely transparent in our friendships because deep down inside we are afraid that we don’t quite measure up with one another. It’s really silly when you think about it, but I’ve found (through my own experiences and through a few experiences recounted from others) that there is a bit of validity here.
The Image of Perfection
I’ve struggled, more than I’d like to admit, with the image of perfection. Recently, I opened up to a few sisters in Christ by sharing my struggles with perfection during our small group (we’re reading “Identity Theft”). Openly, I spoke of my desperate attempts to check all the boxes as a wife, mother, friend, sister, employee, and even as a Christian. During my single days, I wanted to be identified as the hardworking, relentless woman who is unyielding in accomplishing her goals. Once I became a wife, I wanted to be identified as the loving and devoted wife who is the best helper to her husband, keeps her home impeccably pristine, and makes the healthiest and tastiest meals on this side of the Mississippi River. As a mom, I have found myself desiring to be that perfect mama who nourishes her baby with the best breast milk and freshly puréed foods, patiently instructs, and readily engages with her daughter at a moment’s notice. As a worker, I’ve fought hard to convince myself and others that I can perfectly manage my job as well as my responsibilities as a wife/mom in skilled balance without distress or struggle. And as a Christian, I’ve attempted to portray my life as one of faithfulness that never waivers in devotion or strength. Whew! Doesn’t that sound so good? Too bad none of it is true! LOL! I am not in any way the perfect wife, mother, friend, sister, employee and certainly not the perfect Christian. On most days, I don’t know if I am coming or going. Sometimes I find myself burrowed in defeat because I couldn’t “get it done” that day. And as much as I want to perpetuate the image of perfection, it’s merely nothing more than a lie.
Overcompensating and “Throwing Shade”
Ok, so if you’ve never heard of the term “shade” you’re in for your first lesson today. “Shade” can best be described as casually disrespecting someone by negatively highlighting an area of their life in an inconspicuous manner.
Here are a few examples…
“Girl, you can’t be on time for anything?”
“You’re still breastfeeding? Oh, honey, I stopped when my son turned one.”
“Do you ever do anything other than reading your Bible? You need a hobby, friend.”
At first sight, these comments may seem harmless, but at the root, they are prideful and ill-hearted. Unfortunately, I’ve seen remarks like these escape the lips of far too many women. And I’ve regularly questioned, why? I honestly think that the whole incredulous notion of “throwing shade” has developed because so many women struggle with accepting varying inadequacies. The countermeasure then becomes an attempt to validate ourselves by invalidating others. We fiercely covet perfection and when we fall short of achieving perfection, we’ll do anything to feel good about ourselves. We create systems and categories to discreetly make ourselves appear better about just how far and how much we fall short of impeccability. Sadly, “throwing shade” has become the new way of overcompensating for living a flawed, broken life.
When You Know You Aren’t Enough
In our minds, we equate perfection with being enough. So when we fail at achieving perfection, we despair over not feeling enough. The question is not whether or not we are enough. We aren’t. On my own, I am not enough. I can never read enough self-help books, check enough boxes, or highlight another’s imperfections to make myself perfectly acceptable before God. Thus, the real question is, how do we respond to not being enough? How can we live encouraged, fearless lives in the midst of imperfection? Sisters, the answer is found in Christ. Hebrews 10:14 states, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” In Christ, we are freed from the oppressing idol of perfection. In Christ, God sees us perfectly and counts us righteous. We no longer have to compensate or overcompensate for being imperfect. Christ has completely fulfilled the standard of perfection, therefore, the only right response to knowing you aren’t enough is to trust fully in the life and work of Christ. Rest in him dear sisters, rest.