Authenticity Trumps Perfection. Every Time.

May 13, 2016 | 8 comments

I’m a Type-A people-pleaser with perfectionist tendencies. I have struggled with what I call “competency addiction.” That means I have wanted to make a good impression, especially around amazing people like you. But I have often feared that I am approximately one prepositional phrase away from making a fool of myself.

Then one day, it all went off the rails. That day, I lived a perfectionist’s worst nightmare. And it all happened on live radio.

It might have been the best thing that happened to me.

Here’s how it went down:

A widely broadcast radio host wanted to interview me about the first book I had written. I would go live at 3 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon. I was nervous, but excited. My perfectionist tendencies went into overdrive, so I was über-prepared. I had my responses ready. I had prayed the right prayers. I practiced out loud. I had even changed into actual clothes rather than wearing what I call my “writing costume” — my Smurfs T-shirt and drawstring pajama pants.

Everything was going just like I had planned until we were about ten minutes into the interview. That’s when the call-waiting beep interrupted the call. A few minutes later, the beeping began again. I apologized to the radio host, fumbled a bit, and then recovered well enough to answer the next question.

But then the doorbell rang. And then it rang again. And again. Then, it rang once more, in an apparent attempt to drive me to the ragged edge of my sanity. The person at my front door would. not. leave. The chimes of Big Ben echoed through the house like a death knell.

In a panic, I dove under my desk with my cordless phone — as if hiding could help. My face was the crimson shade of embarrassment, or perhaps more of a mortified gray. I can’t say for sure, because I was too busy praying that Jesus’ Second Coming would happen sometime before the next commercial break.

Just then, the radio host asked me a question. The silence on her end of the line was my cue to answer. But I had no idea what she had asked.

And I am not exaggerating when I tell you this: THE DOORBELL RANG AGAIN.

“I am so sorry,” my voice squeaked, as I curled tighter into a fetal position, “but can you repeat the question?”

And right then, we both started laughing. We laughed about the doorbell and the call-waiting beep and my acute case of Paralysis of the Voice Box. The irony was not lost on either of us: In that moment, I was being challenged to live out the message I had been asked to bring to her listeners.

My radio message was this . . .

Cut yourself some slack. Be you. Live your actual life. Allow yourself to make mistakes.

If I was going to preach that message, well hello, … I had to live it.

I had come to tell those radio listeners what I want to tell you today:

If we could have achieved perfection on our own, we wouldn’t have needed Jesus.

achieved perfection, radio, jesus

But we really do need Jesus. Oh, yes we do.

I need to know that again today. How about you?

In this age we’re living in, it’s so tempting to carefully edit, flawlessly filter, and meticulously manage your life. But people don’t want your perfection. They want your you-ness. Here’s what draws people to you: authenticity.

You want to know what turns people away? Your try-hard attempts to make it look like you’ve got it all together. Because if you’ve got it all together, then approximately no one can relate to you.

We need the real you. I need the real you. And if I’m going to live in freedom — out from under my desk — I need to be the real me.

If you’re like me, un-gospel thoughts tempt you every day to strive toward self-preservation and impression management. Let’s learn how to spot the danger signs in ourselves.

At root, our desire for perfection isn’t about wanting to get it right. It’s about wanting to save face. It’s about fear. We’re afraid we’ll look incompetent. We’re afraid people will be repelled by our messiness. But more than our perfection, people want our realness. They want the real us, the messy us, so they know they’re not alone.

And more importantly, that’s who God wants. He wants the person He created, not the fiction we try to manufacture.

After that radio show, I heard from many listeners. I’ll give you one guess what their favorite part was. Yep, the part where it got messy.

That’s when I knew it for sure: Authenticity trumps perfection. Every time.

by | May 13, 2016 | 8 comments


  1. Cheryl Burroughs-Zueger

    Jennifer, I love this and it was just what I needed to hear!! “He wants the person He created, not the fiction we try to manufacture.” With so much of our lives played out on social media, we desire what is “real” and “authentic” but that has become so blurred and tough to define, even with ourselves! Thank you so much for speaking your heart! I anxiously await your next post, as always!

  2. Tresta Payne

    So I have this friend coming over in a few hours – she has a perfect home and enough energy for the both of us, and this morning I feel wrung out and less than perfect in every way. I’ll tidy up a bit, but she’s going to see my lack and love me anyways ; ) So thankful for friends like her and words like yours, Jennifer. The only perfect life that ever saved anyone was Jesus’. I’ll point to Him with my imperfections.

  3. Martha Orlando

    So, so true, Jennifer! Being our authentic selves, warts and all, is the only way to go. It’s taken me a good many years to learn that as I, too, was a perfectionist and scared to death that anyone would think of me as anything but wonderful. Thank goodness God showed up and straightened me out! Yes, I need Jesus, each and every moment of each and every day.

  4. Jennifer Frisbie

    Goodness! I can’t tell if I’m more on the edge of my seat for not knowing who was at the door or more elated at the fact that you own a Smurfs t-shirt!

    Love this. So, SO love this!

  5. Katie

    Hilarious! I love your honesty and these words, they feel like freedom.

  6. Hollyko

    I love your posts Jennifer. You are so honest. I would have never made it out from under the desk.

  7. Meghan Weyerbacher

    Yeehaw this is good stuff, Jennifer! I could so see myself doing a baseball slide under a table like that haha! Thanks for this loving reminder X’s 1000000!!!

  8. Joanna @ Modern Ruth Project

    I love this! I just came over to your blog because I read your post and I love this post! I agree so much – so many people spend so much time pretending to be perfect, even when we know it’s not true! Thanks for helping us all be a little more real!


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