The Insanity Of Perfectionism

The word “wholeness” is often heard today in church circles and secular community alike.  Often this concept of wholeness refers to an elusive state of being, that once achieved or discovered, the individual will live in some form of completeness or perfection.

Philosophers have described God as the “perfect being”— “a being that possesses all possible perfections, so that it is all-powerful, all-knowing, immutable, perfectly good, perfectly simple, and necessarily existent, among other qualities.”  Only God through Jesus Christ can ever be described in this way, as nothing of His creation will ever equal Him.

Well nobody's perfectWhat Is Perfection?

For some reason, modern-day humans (well, at least Americans) have constructed a definition of “perfection” that ultimately is self-defeating.  If a person was to try to explain the insanity of perfectionism in words, it might sound something like this:

THE INSANITY OF PERFECTIONISM

“The standard of worthiness by which I measure myself is both arbitrary and subjective.  Much of it I had no part in creating.  Other people have done that for me.  My standard of acceptability is a collection of rules, standards, and expectations that my subconscious mind has constructed as I’ve lived my life and observed the world around me.  Yes, some of these expectations are realistic and beneficial.  Many others though, have no basis in human reality.  In some instances they drive me to perfectionism, control, and compulsiveness in hopes of garnering the approval of others.  At other times they drive me to a sense failure, powerlessness, and rejection that I feel when the approval of others eludes me.  Either way, I’ve learned that my worth and value are a product of my performance being evaluated through the eyes of other human beings whose perspective is just as blurred as my own.”

God’s Definition Is Different Than Ours

Through our human, finite mind we can only understand a word or concept relative to the frame of understanding we already have.  So, it only makes sense then, that our view of “perfect” and God’s view of “perfect” might be radically different.

Our limited view of perfection places us in a world that functions by this universal rule:

MY PERFORMANCE + YOUR APPROVAL = MY SELF WORTH

This is bondage!  it binds us to having to strive to perform so that others will validate our performance so that we can feel good about ourselves.  Result?  Well, that depends on whether we’re experiencing it through the lens of PRIDE or of FEAR.

 PRIDE

Self-made

Self-promoting

Self-affirming

Self-centered

Self-sufficient

Self-actualized

Self-acceptance

FEAR

Inadequate

Not enough

Rejection

Abandonment

Failure

Unworthy

Unacceptable

 

This worldly standard of “perfection” becomes something to be attained, achieved, or earned.  As if to say that other human beings have the ability or authority to deem someone as “perfect.”  Sounds pretty ludicrous doesn’t it?

Godly Perfection

James writes, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be PERFECT and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4 NIV).

Hmm. From this we might conclude that perfection is not something we strive for or achieve, but quite the contrary.  Perfection is something that we mature into as we allow the imperfections of life to cause us to become more dependent on Jesus and more transformed into His nature and character.

My perspective of this is not that we are becoming more perfect (which sounds like self-improvement), but rather becoming less imperfect (which the Bible calls self-denial or dying to self).

“He must become greater; I must become less” John 3:30

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