Uncovering Those Self-Imposed Rules


Lately, I’ve been thinking about families who get swallowed up by the performance trap.

They seem to strive for the impossible. They are very busy people and their young children often look exhausted. You wonder when they ever enjoy just being with one another and enjoying one anothers presence.

Yet, quite often the children are involved in so many activities outside of school that the whole family is exhausted. They are constantly on the run.

This is not just about being busy. Rather, it is a view of life in which we almost fear that if we don’t collect as many different experiences as possible that we will miss something. Unfortunately, we often settle for skimming across the surface of life instead of traveling deeply. Instead of deeply experiencing life, we just skim across the top and move on to something else.

Some of us, in our busyness, live with some self-imposed rules that are rooted in our view of performance. For example, consider these self-imposed rules:

1. “I can’t make a mistake. Why that would be terrible! Since there is the possibility that I might make a mistake in this particular project, I won’t even try. I want to succeed, and that means playing it safe.”

With such a self-imposed rule, children may never develop the courage to risk or venture into new territory. They may become overly cautious instead of seeking new adventure. They may even hesitate to trust God if there seems to be risk involved.

2. “I will go all the way or not at all. Either I become a winner, the best, an expert, or I don’t want to be involved.” Really? Do we want to take this view about everything we do? Do we not have a sense of priority? Now, perhaps, I might take this view regarding my top priorities. However, there might be lesser priorities in my life that are not worthy of this level of commitment. For example, I may choose to have a lesser commitment in the way I wash my car, clean out the garage, or make my lunch. I may not want to be that intense about everything I do.

To have this level of intensity about most everything can make it very difficult for a family to have fun. Far too often, things get too intense and overly serious and kids learn that their family is really not very fun. (Is it possible to just play a game in a family without someone getting angry or putting down another person? Can we not just laugh and have fun?)

3. “I will get it done by myself. If I want something done right, I have to do it myself.” Some people believe it is a sign of weakness to admit they need help. Such a person often lives with the fear of looking foolish, inadequate, or just not knowing what to do.

Still others with this view, are not willing to work to develop people and bring others along. For example, there are some ministers who have the idea that ministry is about doing 25 different tasks in the name of “ministry.” They don’t take the time or make the effort to equip others. As a result, the people around them never develop and grow. Meanwhile, this minister either feels like a martyr (“this is my lot in life”) or feels resentful (“I have to do all of this work while they do nothing”).


What other self-imposed rules, related to performance, seem to exist for some people? What is the downside of such a view of life?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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One thought on “Uncovering Those Self-Imposed Rules

  1. Very interesting topic! Over the years I have learned to shed some of the parent-imposed rules related to performance. The list is too long, but includes those you have mentioned. Letting those go has not been an easy process. I sometimes still hear those voices in my head, lol! Each person has their own unique set of inherited rules that should be constantly evaluated, re-assessed, improved or discarded as maturity is gained and insight given in our faith walk. Now I feel that the rules I apply to my life need to be self-imposed – as in self-control- the fruit of the Spirit – rather than other imposed. Just my thoughts at the moment!