By DEBRA WHITE SMITH
PALESTINE — QUESTION: I am a senior in college, the daughter of a pastor. I have spent my whole life in the church. My whole life I have felt as if I am suppose to be perfect. I graduated at the top of my high school class and have gone onto college and have done really well. I held leadership positions in our church from the time I was in junior high. I have always tried my hardest to do what is right and have tried to live in a way that will please God and also make others happy. Now that I am about to graduate from college, I feel like I'm about to have a meltdown. I'm so tired of being the perfect pastor's daughter and having to keep everyone happy. I have majored in ministerial studies, but now, I'm wondering if I did that just because I felt like that was what was expected of me. What I'd really like to do is just teach school, but I'm afraid people will think I'm backing out on my “calling.” If I get certified to teach, that will mean more time in college as well. But really, I feel called to teach school more than anything else. I don't know how to express all this to my parents. I'm so afraid of letting them down. I'm confused and need guidance.
ANSWER: Being a pastor's kid can be a hard place to be in. I know, I was one; and my husband and I have raised two. The pressure to be “perfect” can sometimes exist in reality when peers make snide comments or church people hold you to impossible standards they don't even hold their own kids to. But sometimes, the pressure to be perfect can exist from within. A good kid who wants to please their parents and God can sometimes put more pressure on themselves than anybody else does.
The truth is, you are not perfect, and you never will be — regardless of what anyone thinks or the pressure you might put on yourself. The shortest road to peace and happiness involves developing intimacy with God, determining what He wants you to do, and doing that with balance. Living a life trying to perfectly please other people will do nothing but create an internal stress that will eventually make you sick-spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
You are a young adult now with an opportunity to alter your life's course based on what you feel that God wants you to do. This is a wonderful opportunity for you to break the cycle of always trying to please others and always trying to be perfect. I encourage you to sit down and honestly share everything with your parents. Most parents love their kids and just want what's best for them. More likely than not, a season of honest sharing will reveal that they've just wanted what makes you happy all along.
Also, there are plenty of positions for teachers in missions and ministries all over the world. You never know how God might use your academic background in ministry and education to His glory.
And remember, following God never means you'll be without flaws. God Himself doesn't expect you to be perfect. Why, then, would you expect something of yourself or allow others to pressure you to be something that even God does not expect?
The author of 54 books, Debra White Smith holds an M.A. from U.T. and is the featured relationship specialist on the Fox News Radio Show, “Plain Jane Wisdom.” She and her husband, Daniel, co-pastor Palestine Church of the Nazarene. For more information, visit www.debrawhitesmith.com. Got a problem? E-mail Debra at firstname.lastname@example.org