Thoughts on Perfectionism

Gem and me in front of the Treasury in the ancient stone city of Petra (Jordan)

I’ve shared here in the past about my being a recovering perfectionist (in “The Deadly Disease of Perfectionism,” “Perfectionism Paralyzes” and “Good Enough?” for example). One of the ways this sneaks up behind me is in the common Christian question about what is the best decision in a particular situation? For me, that question often become paralyzing. I usually end up doing nothing.

For example, if I have ten ways that I could meet with God, but can’t figure out which is best, then I sometimes end up doing none of them. Even if I did the poorest fitting one (whatever that would be), it would have been more than the nothing I ended up doing.

Whatever “holy perfection” is, it’s about completeness or maturity, not flawlessness. Satan wants perfect to mean flawless. That is humanly impossible and a great trap. I have found that sometimes, my way out of such stuckness is make the free choice to do nothing. I own that choice. I take responsibility for it. And, then, I find myself free to change my mind to choose a good that just might not be perfect (or even necessarily the best).

Satan uses my perfectionism as a way of making me into a victim, rather than a son of God with power and authority in Christ.

I must now allow perfectionism to enslave me. I think of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 6:12 “And I will be mastered by nothing (including perfectionism).” Paul says that all things are permissible or legal. I could make any choice I might want to make. But I don’t want to be mastered by anything. I don’t want to be stuck in legalism, nor through exercise of freedom. Not every free choice is necessarily beneficial.

And I cannot overcome perfectionism perfectly! Freedom from perfectionism comes in relationship with a God of mercy and grace. I need His help.

Perfectionism felt valuable in my twenties and thirties, questionable in my forties, and now diabolical in my fifties.

For Reflection:

  • Do you recognize any patterns of perfectionism in your own ways of thinking? How are you coming to see it as more liability than asset?

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