Why perfectionists hate community
This time of year, every church invites us to get plugged in to a small group. Pastors extol the benefits of doing life with others, and we’re reminded that we’re designed for community. My first response is:
I’d rather poke my eye out with a dull pencil.
Wait, wait, wait. I love people. I love to spend time with them and hear their stories. I love to break bread, laugh in kitchens, and say “amen” before going home.
So why is my first response to avoid community?
1. God’s call to community involves far more than being nice one night a week.
Jesus’ way of community is radical, which makes me uncomfortable. It’s not glossy and external. It’s not pleasantries and a cheese tray. It’s not small talk and worksheets—it’s intimate and consistent and way more work than I want it to be.
But community makes me more like Christ.
Someone will drive me crazy, and I’ll need to offer grace. Our house will be a mess, and I’ll have to open the door anyway. Someone will ask me to help in ways that are inconvenient, and I must choose to help or not. I’ll screw up and need to tell someone about it.
Community exposes my weaknesses. It highlights how impatient I can be and how unloving I am when I don’t want to be inconvenienced. Living in community magnifies my selfishness when I don’t want to gently confront a friend because I don’t want her to get mad at me.
In isolation, I’m a saint. In community, I’m exposed… and no perfectionist is seeking exposure.
2. God’s call to community means loving others even when I can’t do it perfectly.
Perfectionists want to do all the things perfectly. I plunge into activities I know I can perform well. I avoid people and situations that reveal I’m not as perfect as I think I am. I opt out of things if I don’t think I can perform perfectly.
God’s love never fails, but when I try to love others, sometimes I fail. My perfectionist’s goal is to never let others see me fail, so in this tension, I decide it’s better not to love at all.
3. God’s call to community means admitting that I don’t know all the answers, which wounds my pride.
In small groups, situations come up that I have no idea how to respond to. What do you say to those who’ve lost a job, have a child being bullied, or opened divorce papers?
As an Achiever, one who leans more on self and less on the God of amazing grace, I want to have a solution to each and every issue. I like to think I live in a sitcom where every difficult situation can wrap up in 30 minutes and everyone leaves happy.
My pride tells me that I know what to say and do at all times. So when I don’t know what to say or do to comfort or fix you, my pride is wounded.
4. God’s call to community means admitting that I have issues too.
Yes, I know that I have struggles, hurts, and points of failure. But I don’t want you to know it. I prefer that you believe the real me is the mask I wear each time we’re at small group together.
God tells us to confess our sins to each other, but I don’t want to do that. Community reveals my high level of pride, the pride that tells me that no one needs to know my issues. When I open up about my struggles, my pride is wounded.
All four of my perfectionist reasons for avoiding community boil down to fear and selfishness.
I’m fearful to have the layers pulled back, fearful that you’ll discover who I truly am, fearful to be vulnerable, and fearful that all this will hurt too much.
I’m selfish because I believe your hurt comes back to me giving answers and because I want to be perceived as perfect.
Despite my fear and selfishness, I’ve decided to live in community anyway.
Here’s what I know: God wants me in community and my enemy wants me isolated. So I’ve made a decision to be a part of or host a small group because I’m tired of living in fear, holding up a mask, and hoarding a life that isn’t even mine to keep.
I must, we must, be in community even though it’s hard and transformation can be painful. Even though the facade of perfectionism will fade away.
So this season, as churches everywhere encourage us to join small groups, I’ll save my eye from the dull pencil and join one because it’s true—we’re built for community.