In her devotional address on Feb. 23, Julie Shiffler, a counselor at BYU-Idaho, taught how the Atonement of Jesus Christ can ease the burdens of perfectionism in this life.
Shiffler explained that perfectionism can involve self-criticism, comparison or unrealistic standards.
“Perhaps there are parts of your life where you are critical of yourself because you are failing to measure up to some predetermined standard,” Shiffler said. “Any time we employ self-criticism, we are engaging in perfectionism. This is an unhealthy practice that can lead to depression, anxiety or other mental health problems.”
Along with mental health problems, perfectionism can also lead to feelings of shame.
“We are painfully aware of our weaknesses and inadequacies, yet we continue to drive ourselves to reach impossible goals,” Shiffler said. “Then, when we fall short, we label ourselves as failures and often feel hopelessness and shame.”
She introduced a new way to think about perfection.
In Mathew 5:48, Christ says, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”
While reading this verse, Shiffler discovered a footnote that gave her a new perspective.
“In this verse, there is a footnote to the word ‘perfect’ that tells us that the meaning of the word in this context is ‘complete, finished, fully developed,'” Shiffler said. “Notice that it does not mean flawless.”
Though feelings of inadequacy may emerge, Shiffler reminded students that it is impossible to do everything perfectly.
“It’s still impossible for us to do it all,” Shiffler stated. “We may achieve perfection in some areas, but because of the demands and challenges of our mortal existence, we are not going to keep all of the commandments perfectly. It’s easy to become discouraged.”
Shiffler encouraged students to do their best and turn to Christ during times of discouragement.
“As we accept the invitation to be perfected in Christ, we find peace and happiness in doing our best, even when our best falls short of perfection,” she shared. “We recognize that our best effort is good enough for the Savior because His Atonement makes us perfect. We are relieved of the burden of self-criticism and the fear that we can never do enough. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we find peace for our troubled souls.”
Through Christ’s Atonement, we can learn to love and forgive ourselves according to Shiffler.
She quoted Michael McLean, who said, “One thing that I know for certain: He has borne my every burden so I can be gentle with myself.”