Control and Perfection: The Enemies of Thankfulness

Posted by Naomi Vacaro on

Why I Struggle with Being Thankful
By Christi Grimm

If you have joined the ranks of parenthood, you have probably felt overwhelmed at the task. Parenting is no joke- it is definitely not for the faint of heart! As I have spent the last two decades raising children (and with another decade in front of me), I have come to realize something: I like control.

Children have a way of pointing these things out to us, don’t they? I like to feel that I am in control of my life, I like to have control over my home, I like to have a sense of control over my children’s choices…and the list goes on.  If you’re willing to admit it, you probably like control too! Control, many times, has a partner called Perfection.

Our so called “friends” Control and Perfection sound like this:

“My home should be perfectly picked up- it should look like a Pinterest board.”

“My children should never talk back, disobey, act rudely, or be disrespectful.” 

“My meals should be wonderfully healthy, organic, and home grown, and we should eat dinner at 6 P.M. every night.”

“My body should be shapely, lack any extra fluff, be perfectly smooth, and of course I should be working out 3-4 times a week.”

“My spiritual life should be soaring, I should hear from God in a profound way every time I sit with Him, I should never miss a day, and it should absolutely happen first thing in the morning (while the children are quiet, content, and doing their own Bible studies with their Greek and Hebrew word study materials, of course.)”

“My marriage should be idyllic- we should never argue, should have weekly romantic dates, should connect emotionally, sexually, and spiritually on a regular basis…and it should always be fulfilling.”

Now, I realize we don’t use these exact phrases, but this is how we live. We expect to have perfect lives. We expect to “have it all together” all the time.  And because we have these unrealistic expectations of ourselves, our children, and our families, we must maintain control!  Because when we give up control, we risk the opportunity of our perfect-Pinterest-personas crashing down. 

Friends, I can tell you from experience- this is no way to live! Control and Perfection are two sides of the same coin and no matter how you look at them they always do the same things: they steal your thankfulness and ultimately your joy.  If I am focused on everything being perfectly planned and executed, there is no space to experience God’s grace. There is no space for learning and growing, to be human, or to be a CHILD of God. We tend to forget we are CHILDREN of God; we are not little gods who should be in control of everything and perfect! If I am focused on everything being controlled and perfect, I miss out on experiencing a thankful heart.

Thankfulness occurs in a humble heart.  Control and Perfection occur in a prideful heart. A prideful heart says, “I can do this, I don’t need help, and I need you (the world) to see how well I’m doing and applaud me.” Essentially, the attitude of our heart becomes “Look at me! I’m a little god!”

On the flip side, the more we recognize that we DON’T have it all together and our daily dependence is on God, the more thankful we can become at His work and presence in our lives.

I am finding that the more I open my hands and relinquish control and perfectionism to Him, the more thankfulness stirs in my heart. It isn’t a series of words I speak, per se, but rather an attitude and authentic feeling of thankfulness (that can then pour over into my words). I am recognizing that when I fall back into control and perfectionism, I fall out of a thankful heart and attitude. The two cannot reside in the same heart at the same time. I can either choose control and perfectionism OR I can choose humility and thankfulness.

Do you struggle with being thankful?  Do you struggle with irritability when things don’t go as planned? Perhaps, like me, you have struggled with control and perfectionism. I want to challenge you: each time God brings a detour in your day or an irritability from the messiness of life, stop and choose thankfulness. 

As we walk into this Thanksgiving season, I encourage you to do it differently. Get to the heart of the matter!  Cultivating a thankful heart requires digging in. It requires more than just speaking some nice words of thanks around the Thanksgiving table with friends and family. It is more than writing what you’re thankful for on a paper cut-out turkey. Thankfulness pours out of the heart; it is an attitude and is in direct correlation of our communion with the Father. The more I relinquish the need for control and perfection, the more I can offer all of myself to the Father and the more thankfulness will flow in. 

Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise His Holy Name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all His benefits- who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion. (Psalm 103:1-4)

Application Points

  • Ask yourself: Am I striving for control in this situation? How can I let go of control and invite God into this moment? If God is invited into our messes, He will create thankfulness within your heart.
  • Ask yourself: Am I trying to have everything perfect so that I can feel better about myself? Is my perfectionism tied to my identity and worth? When our identity and worth is grounded in Christ instead of our surroundings, we can’t help but become thankful at what the Lord has done!
  • Ask yourself: What, in this moment, is actually a God-gift that I can humble myself and be thankful for? What often looks like a disaster is frequently filled with God-saturated goodness if we will only look for it!
  • Ask yourself: What is it about a Pinterest-persona that is so gratifying? How can God fulfill this need for you? Each time we turn to a worldly way of fulfillment (even if it’s a good thing), our soul is ultimately crying out for more of God. He desires to show you more of Himself, and as He does, your thankfulness will overflow!
  About Christi: 
Christi was born and raised in sunny central Florida where she still resides!  Along with her husband, Christi keeps busy raising their children, traveling, and homeschooling. She is passionate about being a life-long learner, building relationships, and bringing God’s freedom to women through small retreats.  You can find out more about her ministry at 
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