The Analytical Perfectionist and the Love of Christ

Thought Bubble above Brain via amenclinicsphotos ac - and heart via Ilya Dedykh - CC

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

John 16:13-15

We looked at John 16:13-14 in our last post but by including verse 15, we find still more truth. Something beautiful about our God is revealed.

Intimacy and Love

First we see God telling us He is going to give the Holy Spirit to those who give themselves to Jesus, as a means of sharing Himself. For those who give their life to Jesus, God is going to share His heart with them, through the Holy Spirit. This shift toward intimacy with us is the result of the work Jesus did for us during his time here on planet earth.

Second we see in these three verses all three Persons of the Trinity. And we also see the identifying characteristic of the Trinity. In antiquity, the sharing of possessions characterized an ideal relationship. (Keener) In our passage we see the Holy Spirit sharing with us what he is given from Jesus. (verses 13-14) And then Jesus states directly, whatever the Father has, also belongs to Jesus. (verse 15) So in the context of the ancient culture of Jesus’ day, Jesus is communicating to us the defining characteristic of the Trinity:

Love.

The three persons of the Trinity love each other, perfectly. Their love for each other is what defines the Trinity.

“God is love,” God tells us in 1 John 4:8.

And God invites us to join Him, and His Son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, to also become defined by love. The Jesus follower is invited by God to become defined by his love for Jesus and his love for people. (We discussed this more in depth in a previous post “Things I Heard in Church: One of the most helpful teachings ever about the Trinity”)

I am invited by God to become defined by my love for Jesus and my love for people.

But there’s a problem. A serious personal problem I recently identified. A problem that prevents me from entering into that love Jesus invites me to.

When Jesus’ Love Flows (and when it doesn’t)

A few weeks ago I was considering the different experiences I’ve had when Jesus puts someone in front of me–someone he wants me to love. There were situations where somebody needed a place to live for awhile, so we opened up our home to them. Or someone needed a person to talk to, to share their problems, so I made myself available to listen. Or someone needed something practical, like my friend who needed help moving, so I went over and helped him load the truck.

Whatever the “assignment,” if you will, from Jesus, I’ve noticed the experience is absolutely amazing when my heart is filled with the love of Christ. Everything flows. Setbacks are met with a sense that God will help us through. My heart is filled with love for the person in front of me and I’m filled with enthusiasm for whatever I can do to help that person. It’s often both hard and fulfilling at the same time, yet it’s good. It feels good.

But To be honest, the experience can be absolutely miserable when my heart is filled with something else. And the something else comes from who I am.

I’m an analytical minded perfectionist.

The Analytical Perfectionist and the Love of Christ

Analytical minded perfectionists are wonderful in certain situations. I want the people who built and manage this website to be analytical perfectionists so I don’t have to put up with bugs. And I want the surgeon who works on Kathy’s body to be an analytical perfectionist. And I want the person piloting the airplane I’m in to be an analytical perfectionist–as well as the mechanics who prepared the plane. I want the leaders of my local fire department to be analytical perfectionists so if my family has an emergency we’ll receive the best possible help in our time of need.

However:

There’s a problem we analytical perfectionists have when it comes to relationships. The problem is we’re constantly on the lookout for imperfections, imperfections in other people. And even if we’re smart enough to avoid offering unsolicited advice to “fix” these imperfections we notice in other people, that critical narrative in our brain gets in the way of what Jesus wants to do in our heart.

The thoughts I have about the person in front of me, in large part, control the feelings I have toward the person in front of me. If I have negative critical thoughts about the person, I foster negative feelings about that person.

But, here’s the good news: We can control our thoughts. We can control that narrative. We can choose what to think.

We can choose to think what we’re instructed to think in Philippians 4:8. And, I don’t know why I never saw this before, but we can choose to think what we’re instructed to think in Philippians 4:8 about the person in front of us in the moment.

So we can choose to think:

Whatever is true about this person.

Whatever is honorable about this person.

Whatever is just about this person.

Whatever is pure about this person.

Whatever is lovely about this person.

Whatever is commendable about this person.

Whatever is excellent about this person.

Whatever is worthy of praise about this person.

Think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)

When I start to think critical negative thoughts about someone but catch myself early, and shift my thinking, and go through that list about the person in front of me, do you know what happens? I think to myself, “What is wrong with you. This is a wonderful person God has put in your life. Why would you dwell on this tiny flaw (if there’s a flaw at all) when this person is so full of what is honorable and just and pure and lovely and commendable and excellent and worthy of praise?”

This, I think, is life changing.

Because allowing myself to think critical negative thoughts about the person in front of me dams up the flow of love from Jesus. It prevents me from entering into the love Jesus invites me into, the love we see between the three People in the Trinity. Like the kiln that hardens the clay those critical negative thoughts harden my heart. Those thoughts cause rigidity. A rigid critical narrative pops up that sounds like this: “I hate it when he (insert his behavior that annoys you here: __________ ).” And “She always (insert her behavior that hurts you here: ____________ ).” And “He never (insert what you think he should have done that he didn’t do here: ____________ ).”

“Hate.” “Always.” “Never.” Those are rigid words forging a rigid heart and a rigid outlook. The person in front of me is not meeting my rigid standards. When I think this way I become more like a pharisee than a Christian. I set up rigid standards for the people around me instead of showing grace.

Of course there’s the occasional situation when someone’s behavior becomes unhealthy for the relationship, and boundaries have to be established. I’m not talking about those times. I’m talking about the day to day interactions I have with the people around me. The pattern of thoughts I have that get in the way of Jesus’ love on an almost daily basis.

Sabotaging My Own Joy

And here’s the thing: When I allow myself to think that way, when I disregard Christ’s instruction in Philippians 4:8 about how I should think of people, I undermine my own joy.

I make myself miserable.

Life is so much more abundant, and fuller, and bigger, and better when I think about people the way Jesus wants me to. If I think the way he wants me to: I’m the big winner.

I’ve had enough. I’m determined to eliminate that critical negative narrative and replace it with the thoughts Jesus has in mind for me to think.

Maybe you’d like to join me. I’m going to start praying this prayer:

That I might please You Father and be filled with all Your fullness and have the abundant life Jesus wants me to have,

I’m determined to choose to think, I will purpose in my heart to think:

Whatever is true about this person.

Whatever is honorable about this person.

Whatever is just about this person.

Whatever is pure about this person.

Whatever is lovely about this person.

Whatever is commendable about this person.

Whatever is excellent about this person.

Whatever is worthy of praise about this person.

Philippians 4:8

Father, help me to do so.

 

Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me–practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:8-9

 

Notes:

Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, InterVarsity Press, 1993, p. 303

Heart image and brain image via Ilya Sedykh and amenclinicsphotos ac respectively — both Creative Commons. Combined and edited by Kurt Bennett.

4 thoughts on “The Analytical Perfectionist and the Love of Christ

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