Perfectionism is a curse. It drives a person to set impossibly high standards. It robs the one who experiences it of satisfaction in a ‘job well done’ because that person focuses instead on the question – “Could I have done this better? Perfectionists become anxious and frequently turn into nasty critics of others! Over time, perfectionists turn on themselves, self-critical, lonely, and isolated in a rigidity that will not allow them to accept others who fail to meet their unrealistic expectations.
Yes, we do tend to love ‘perfect’ don’t we? Who wouldn’t like to have an ideal body type, a family that is without dysfunction, a life without flaws and failure? One author writes – “Perfection creates unhelpful expectations about what life should be. Some of us have conjured up immaculate visions of the perfect marriage, the perfect job or even the perfect Saturday—images that only exist on your Pinterest board. The reality is, nothing in our lives can ever be 100% perfect. Only in your wildest dreams.” (Relevant, Rachel Moreland)
Defeating perfectionism requires a shift in perspective, from comparison to others to understanding your own abilities and determining to do what you are able to do best. It also requires developing a sense of what is ideal and what is possible. Sometimes focusing on that last tiny bit of detail – “It just has to be perfect” – actually hinders productivity. It is important to know when it is time to say ‘finished,’ and move on to the next task.
So why am I thinking about this today?
Because many people drag a form of perfectionism into their Christianity! They become deceived about the reality of knowing and loving God, tricked into thinking that the only way to be loved by Him, to be acceptable in His sight, is to become perfect. Perhaps you are running ahead and wondering, “But, Jerry, doesn’t the Bible tell us to be perfect?” There are many passages that teach us to be perfect, but not in the sense in which we tend to understand the word. We read ‘flawless’ where we see that word instead of what is actually meant which is to be ‘complete.’ When we strive for flawless perfection we end our day with self-condemning thoughts and a sense of failure. “Why did I say that?” “How could a real Christian think a thought like that?” The joy of the Lord is lost to fear and self-loathing!
Here is the truth about belonging to God and living in His love. It is first a gift of grace and a response of faith! In the earliest chapters of the Bible we read this – “Abram believed the LORD, and He credited it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6, NIV) Read the story of that man again. He was far from flawless. He lied. He made some poor choices. He let fear overwhelm him. Yes, he did some amazing things, too. He followed God’s call. He offered up his beloved son and discovered that God was the Provider. But, at the heart of his story (and ours!) is the fact that his relationship with God was not based on ‘perfect’ performance. It was from faith, first to last.
Paul, in the letter to the Romans, explores Abraham’s faith in depth. Inspired by the Spirit, he teaches us that “because of Abraham’s faith, God declared him to be righteous. Now this wonderful truth—that God declared him to be righteous—wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was for us, too, assuring us that God will also declare us to be righteous if we believe in God, who brought Jesus our Lord back from the dead. He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised from the dead to make us right with God.” (Romans 4:22-25, NLT)
When we trust Christ, believing that His gift of salvation is complete in us, our perfectionistic impulse is defeated and we learn to love Him more deeply. The grip that religious fear holds over us, driving us to try to hide our true selves from God is broken and we experience what John describes. “In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect (God’s flawless) love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect (complete) in love. We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:17-19, NIV) The paradox of holiness is that we cannot achieve it by our own effort but we can become holy the grace and power of the Holy Spirit who lives in us!
Are you cursed by perfectionism? Confess it to God, admit it to yourself. Turn around and look again on the wonderful Cross, the enduring evidence of God’s amazing grace and the ‘truth will set you free.’
Here is the word from the Word. “So, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation whatsoever to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you keep on following it, you will perish. But if through the power of the Holy Spirit you turn from it and its evil deeds, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. So you should not be like cowering, fearful slaves. You should behave instead like God’s very own children, adopted into his family—calling him “Father, dear Father.” For his Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts and tells us that we are God’s children.” (Romans 8:12-16, NLT)
Be free, all He has made you to be.
(Video of this blog at this link)
I searched the world but it couldn’t fill me
Man’s empty praise and treasures that fade
Are never enough
Then You came along and put me back together
And every desire is now satisfied here in Your love
Oh there’s nothing better than You
There’s nothing better than You
Lord there’s nothing
Nothing is better than You
I’m not afraid to show You my weakness
My failures and flaws
Lord You’ve seen them all
And You still call me friend
‘Cause the God of the mountain
Is the God of the valley
And there’s not a place
Your mercy and grace won’t find me again
You turn mourning to dancing
You give beauty for ashes
You turn shame into glory
You’re the only one who can
You turn graves into gardens
You turn bones into armies
You turn seas into highways
You’re the only one who can
Brandon Lake | Chris Brown | Steven Furtick | Tiffany Hudson
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