A few years ago, one of my clients was struggling to settle into his ministry role. He would spend a short time working in one place before becoming bored with that job and moving on to the next, often uncovering some sort of "issue" that would make him want to consider changing positions and locations. In reality, he was simply running from some internal struggles.
He continually wrestled with the same problems. As we worked to uncover the cause for his discontentment, we realized he was struggling with integration and the reality that there is no perfect situation or environment. He was continually dissatisfied with his inability to achieve perfection. He was also frustrated with the lack of perfection from those around him.
The reality is that we live in a fallen world, a world that's sinful and flawed. We are all flawed. I really think we know this, but sometimes it's hard for us to accept this truth, especially when it comes to our own lives. Integration has been one of the greatest opportunities for growth in my own character. In this post, I want to give you some insight on how to embrace the truth that there are both positive and negative realities in your life.
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Incredibly, the negative things in life that people experience such as weakness, loss, mistakes, or failures often trigger shame and guilt within them. These are internal triggers that make it hard to face the disappointments of life and still experience successes and happiness.
We must learn to embrace the good and the bad together. When we can’t embrace the good and bad simultaneously, we can’t accept our imperfections and the imperfections of others. We seek perfectionism, which many times leads us to place performance and achievements ahead of the important relationships in our lives.
My pursuit of perfectionism has been the number one challenge to overcome in my life and leadership. I’ve struggled with it since I was a kid. My drug of choice for most of my life has been the pursuit of achievement. I would work hard to achieve things in my ministry for the unhealthy approval of the important people in my life. Getting a pat on the back would give me a high that would keep me continually seeking achievements and perfection.
The idea of me failing or being less than perfect would send me spiraling emotionally and once again cause me to pursue achievements in an unhealthy way. Through much counseling, coaching, and learning about integration, I’ve been able to do some significant work in overcoming these challenges. I’ve learned to experience loss, failure, weakness, and even mediocrity while still maintaining a love for myself. It’s impossible to be all good, and I’m okay with that. I recognize that I have limits, and I accept those limits.
Our world and the people of this world have good and bad in them. Because of our sinful nature, we all have good parts and bad parts. It’s not possible for any of us to be all good. We have a combination of good and bad inside of us, and the world around us has a combination of the good and bad as well.
In the case of my client, he required perfectionism from whatever environment he was working in; and when the church or his job failed to meet those expectations, he would become frustrated and devalue the group. He would then withdraw emotionally and eventually withdraw physically as he moved on to a new job, a new church, or a new group of people who could try to meet his expectations.
Here’s one of the major issues with this pattern of behavior. When we are unable to accept the good and the bad together within us or within the world we live, we develop inconsistent emotions within ourselves and inconsistent relationships with others around us. This behavior creates a roller coaster effect on our relationships. Our relationships become strained, and we then push the people most important to us away.
So, what’s the solution? What does it take to overcome these various integration issues and come into some sense of health? Though it is much easier said than done, the solution is to embrace reality. Paul understood reality all too well. In Romans 7:14 he says, “For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.” Paul knew he was weak and fallen. That’s reality, but he also knew that when he was weak physically, he was strong spiritually. In 2 Corinthians 12:10 he said, “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”
We must embrace the fact that we’re fallen and weak, and we must realize that it’s through our relationship with Christ that we become strong. We were created in the image of God and because of that we have significant value and strength. We’re both weak and strong. It’s when we embrace this reality that we can accept that there is good and bad in life, but life is mostly good. It’s when we embrace this reality that we can have significant integration and growth in our character.
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