Do you know someone you consider to be a “perfect” Catholic? They’re prayerful, involved in your parish, share their faith with a passion, and always seem to have it all together. Maybe you are that person, always striving to be perfect and holy. In a recent article for FOCUS Jake Moore, producer for The Drew Mariani Show™, admitted that he always strived to be the “perfect” Catholic, but didn’t know how detrimental that actually was to his spiritual life and mental health.
Jake stopped by Morning Air® this week to share his struggle with perfectionism, and how recognizing that he is a perfectly imperfect Catholic actually helped Him grow closer to the Lord.
Jake pointed out that many people will joke about how they need things to be clean and tidy or that they have OCD tendencies as a point of pride. But he noted that for those who struggle with perfectionism or obsessive-compulsive disorder it’s not so funny.
“The difference is that for people who really struggle with perfectionism, it’s not something they enjoy,” he said. “For me, my perfectionism and tendency toward scrupulosity is honestly something I’ve struggled with as early as I can remember.”
However, in a culture that rewards perfectionism and striving, the positive feedback a perfectionist receives can reinforce those tendencies, and it can easily bleed into their spiritual life as well.
“I think sometimes it’s so easy to just excuse it,” Jake said. “That’s what I’ve done for myself. I’ve said, ‘Well, I’m supposed to be this way.’ I’m the oldest of five boys in my family, so I grew up and I felt like I needed to be the perfect Catholic. I needed to say the right things, do the right things in school, get the A+ and honor roll every quarter.”
“And in a way, it kind of built up my ego,” he admitted. “I got attached to that sense of perfectionism. But I didn’t realize how much it was negatively affecting me.”
Jake shared that by the time he got into college, “My life really became about me. It wasn’t really about Jesus.” While on the outside he looked like the “perfect” Catholic, he was going through a very dark time. His scrupulosity had led to anxiety, the anxiety led to depression, and the depression led to self-harm.
“I was searching for authentic love, but I didn’t know where that was,” he said. “And because I was so focused on myself, my trying, my striving, I didn’t actually believe that Jesus loved me. I began to think of Jesus as just an idea, of something to be attained, but not a person who actually loves me.”
Jake said that something that gave him a different perspective was when someone told him that scrupulosity can actually be a sign of pride. “That really stuck with me,” he said. “Because I started thinking about it and it’s true. The reason I struggle so much with needing to have it all together is that I’m so focused on myself. I’m so concerned about what other people think about me. It’s really a dependency on myself and not Jesus.”
“That was the striking chord for me. My identity is not in what I do or don’t do. My identity is being a son of God, and nothing I do can take that away. That’s when I finally started getting it.”
Perfectionism isn’t something that is easy to overcome, but Jake shared that turning to the Lord in the sacraments has helped him on his journey of healing.
“I would definitely, 100% credit the Eucharist,” he said. “The more I started spending time with Jesus one-on-one the more I was able to rest. So I spent countless hours in adoration. Catholicism is the best way to have a real, personal relationship with Jesus because we have the Eucharist. Because we have that intimate connection with Jesus in His Church, and He wants us to be free, He wants us to be healed.”
If you also struggle with perfectionism or scrupulosity in the spiritual life, Jake offered his own advice as a perfectly imperfect Catholic.
“Our life is not just about avoiding sin, it’s about trusting God,” he pointed out. “It’s that lie that we buy into that I’m supposed to live the Catholic faith this way, that Catholicism is all about being perfect. But it’s not. Pope Francis says that it’s a hospital for sinners. And Jesus knows we’re going to sin. He knows we’re going to screw up. All He asks is that we continue to come back to Him. His heart is burning to give us that mercy.”
Listen to the full conversation with Jake Moore below: