THE CURSE OF PERFECTIONISM

Is “perfectionism” un-biblical? Jesus says in His Sermon on the Mount not to worry. “Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life. … Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matt. 6:25-27 NIV) Perfectionists worry they won’t measure up to their own standards, let alone the imagined standards of others. Isn’t that un-biblical?

THOSE OF US who are “perfectionists” must unite and throw off our chains! The intense desire that drives us  to do everything just right often cripples us from doing anything. We’re so concerned we’ll look foolish or botch the job that our fear is enough to stop us before we even try. 

Is there a cure? As always, Scripture points us in the right direction. 

SUPPORTING BIBLICAL TEXT

SEEKING A *PERFECT* IMAGE
  • Proverbs 22:19 (NKJV): “So that your trust may be in the LORD; I have instructed you today, even you.”
  • 2 CORINTHIANS 12:9 (ESV): “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
  • 2 CORINTHIANS 10:17-18 (NASB20): “But ‘he who glories, let him glory in the Lord.’ For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends.”
  • GALATIANS 6:4-5 (NLT): “Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.”

PITY THE PERFECTIONISTS!

I AM A PERFECTIONIST. That doesn’t mean I perform at a higher level than others nor does it mean I am satisfied with my level of achievement.

Perfectionism is our fleshly desire to appear better than we really are, but God loves the humble over the proud and tells us that His grace, His forbearance, and His acceptance should be enough for us.

It simply means I strive to do the impossible: to excel at whatever task I’m engaged in with the almost inescapable outcome that I will not come close to accomplishing what I set out to do.

That frustrates me. 

One way to defeat that tendency is to avoid doing any task that I assume I can’t do well. Another way is to avoid doing those tasks I can do well but won’t do as well as I would like. 

Those two strategies can leave me with … doing nothing!

So, I continue to struggle to do the best I can.

BIBLICAL WISDOM

THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES gives us some divinely inspired pointers on how to combat this irritating and exhausting tendency. 

Here’s a prime example:

ECCLESIASTES 2:11 (GNT): “Then I thought about all that I had done and how hard I had worked doing it, and I realized that it didn’t mean a thing. It was like chasing the wind—of no use at all.”

POINTING TO GOD’S WORD

Solomon’s writings in Proverbs add more insight:

  • PROVERBS 3:5-6 (NIV): “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
  • PROVERBS 14:12 (ESV): “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”

I especially like this admonition from the apostle Paul:

  • GALATIANS 6:4-5 (NKJV): “But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load.”

Jesus, in His earthly ministry, put it this way:

  • JOHN 15:5 (ESV): “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (emph. added)

MISPLACED PRIORITIES

OBVIOUSLY, IF I OBSESS about my own accomplishments, instead of finding myself in God’s will, I’m heading down the wrong path.

Just another item that’s easier for me to talk about than it is for me to do, especially since I also want to “bear fruit” for the Kingdom. 

Isn’t the saving grace just that … that we’re saved by God’s grace and not by our own works? (Eph. 2:8). If so, then I’m already in God’s will by humbly submitting my soul to His safekeeping.

My job then is to pray for guidance, see where God is working, and jump in. It doesn’t matter how well I do; I’m not the change agent. The Holy Spirit is. He has chosen to work through me. 

Imagine that!

SONS AND DAUGHTERS

SOMETIMES, LOOKING AT WHAT we do and how we do it, it’s just a matter of emphasis — whether we focus on what we’ve done or, instead, focus on what’s left over. 

PRAISING OUR GOD!

Speaker and author Phill Urena states it this way:

“Another perspective that often goes with this teaching is that we are still sinners saved by grace. I would say to that yes, I was a sinner saved by grace. I am now a saint of God who struggles with sin.” — Redefining Grace, Phill Urena, 2020, Kindle Edit., p. 88.

God tells us through the apostle Peter that we’re “special people” and “a royal priesthood” of sons and daughters. (1 Pet. 2:9 NKJV)

God has claimed us out of the darkness and set us down in His “marvelous light.” 

Considering our blessings, I (and all of us) should be more willing — much more willing — to rest our soul in His arms and not strive so much in our own power to accomplish what we readily admit is beyond our means to do. 

  • LET ME DO MY BEST.
  • LET ME DO WHAT I’VE BEEN CALLED TO DO.
  • LET ME PLACE MY TRUST IN HIM.

PRAISE BE TO GOD!

PRAYER

LORD GOD, We confess that too often we try to go  it alone, even in our attempts at Christian witness. You alone, O God, know what is in a person’s heart, and You alone can change that heart. Help us to be more humble and more obedient in service to You, Father God, so that we follow Your lead, not our own. In humility, we lift this prayer in Jesus’ name. AMEN 

Author: Ward Pimley

Journalist/Author (retired) Evangelical Christian, Politically Conservative. Eager to share God's Message of Salvation and Grace.

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