Category Archives: Perfection

What’s so bad about Perfectionism?

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People are scrambling to be the perfect employee, the perfect asset, the perfectperfect2 person, bent on seeking achievement and anticipating rewards for flawless performance. The paradox is that the reward remains out of reach because they never obtain the flawless standard set for the prize. They end up chasing rewards like the proverbial dangling carrot always within reach but not quite obtainable. Such is the never-ending spin of those caught in the cycle of perfectionism. Check out these signs of a Perfectionist:

____ I beat myself up or punish myself when I fail.
____ I hide my flaws, limitations, or weaknesses.
____ Accepting myself is only possible if I don’t make a mistake.
____ It’s hard for me to admit that I was wrong about something.
____ I’d like others to view me as not having faults.
____ It bugs me if things are out of place.
____ If I can’t do something perfect I don’t want to do it.
____ There’s a right way that most things need to be done.
____ Oversights are not acceptable.
____ If it’s not perfect I must keep trying.
____ People respect me when I’m flawless.
____ I’m often amazed at the incompetence of other people.

If the above list sounds like you, it reflects that you may be caught in the spin cycle of perfectionism. That makes you prone to procrastinate, relationship difficulties, controlling behavior, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, low self-worth and physical illness.

As a recovered perfectionist, it‘s easy to see perfection disease in others. Some perfect3years ago, one particular woman in my office captured my compassion as she struggled to understand the thinking that could free her from the compulsive need to be perfect. I recall a conversation I had with her where I said a few things about her present mind-set in the direct, yet hopefully caring way I’m known for. And what she said I still recall today. She was angry with me because what I said upset her. She viewed her upset as sinful and in her snit she barked “You made me sin today.”

I remember being still in amazement of that statement, and that amazement remains with me now because I do not believe it’s what God intends for us to think. After a pause, I replied to her in a low voice, “Gee, I sin every day.”

Many Christians believe that they are to live as perfect beings. Their doctrine sounds like this… After all, Jesus Himself said it, right? It’s in black and white—perfectright there in Matthew 5 verse 48. From His own lips Jesus said Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. See? Be perfect—just like God. Not half right and half not right—perfect! That’s why mistakes are bad and failure is so shameful. That’s why all this talk about accepting your limitations and weaknesses, and laughing at your mistakes is not right! Errors tell the story of faults and inadequacy. Shortcomings are an outrage and certainly short of the command Jesus made: Be perfect—just like God!

perfect18Here’s the problem with that thinking…Be perfect just like God? Wouldn’t that mean be like God? If we were like God, wouldn’t that mean we’d be equal with God? And heck, if we were equal with God then we wouldn’t really need God for anything because we’d be our own gods. Hey, that can’t be what Jesus is requesting. That can’t be right. The emphasis on the command to be perfect is not on a flawless performance or a perfect moral nature. The Greek word translated as perfect in this passage means “to mature and grow in wisdom.” The word perfect is defined as completion or maturity, not sinless perfection.

Living is not a mandatory pursuit of perfection. God does not expect you to be perfect and He knows the truth about you—that you are imperfect and that you’ll remain imperfect this side of heaven:

Don’t be eager to tell others their faults, for we all make many mistakes. James 3:1
If you claim to be without sin, you deceive yourself, the truth isn’t in you. 1 John 1:9
Admit your weaknesses to one another. James 5:16
If we say that we have no sin, we make God a liar. 1 John 1:10
For all have sinned and fall short. Romans 3:23
I have come not to call the righteous, but the sinners. Matthew 9:13
They are all under sin. Romans 3:9

Neither you nor I can ever be perfect on this earth. What we can accomplish is wisdom from mistakes, maturity from errors, good judgment from bad judgment, freedom from the lies by believing the Truth. This means accepting that mistakes will continue—yours and others. It means accepting that you’re flawed and so is everybody else—even those who can’t admit it.

Jesus never said that Godly maturity is a lack of mistakes. To be perfect means perfect7to acknowledge you don’t know a lot of stuff and you’re willing to learn more. There’s no gaining His approval by your performance. You cannot earn His favor—you can only receive it. God’s love for you is about who you are, not what you do. And this is what motivates people with healthy mind-sets to grow in wisdom—they’re not motivated because of their perfect efforts, they’re motivated because they’re loved.

Think about it! In caring, Sandy

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